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Until recently, the only activity tracking I was really doing was through the Health app on my iPhone. I write about wearables from time to time, and have dabbled in the tracking universe, but never felt the need to commit to any one device for personal use. That said, the time I spent with Moov’s new Moov Now device provided me with clarity and flexibility in my workouts and daily activity that I haven’t experienced with other wearables.
Moov Now is small. The device itself is about the size of three quarters stacked on top of one another and sits inside of a lightweight silicon band that can be worn around your wrist or ankle. It’s comfortable, light, and I hardly notice it’s there. The size is deceptive, though, because the core is the mastermind behind some seriously powerful fitness programs in the corresponding Moov app (iOS and Android). It’s also far more advanced than the entry-level trackers that focus on steps or time spent idle.
“The Moov is one device that powers ten different programs with 200 different levels and variations,” says Moov co-founder Meng Li, “so the content itself is much richer and you get a lot of different ways to exercise within Moov, rather than just counting your steps.”
There are plenty of wearables that are designed for daily use — the ones that track activity passively and report on steps, calories, distance, etc. Moov’s Daily component does something similar, tracking the amount of time you spent active and estimating how many calories you burned (both active and passive). It also tracks your sleeping habits and breaks sleeping time into a “restorative sleep” subcategory.
The daily tracking is helpful, and I really appreciate on the days when I can’t squeeze in a run — I still want to know how much I manage to get up and move around. That said, Moov Now isn’t necessarily for folks who are just looking for daily tracking. It presents many of the same metrics as Fitbit and Jawbone wearables, but it’s designed to be an active wearable — one that’s meant for training and activity, rather than just keeping track of how many flights you climb on your way up to your office and back down again.
As such, its daily metrics aren’t quite as robust as some of its competitors. It doesn’t collect heart rate data (though its activity programs are compatible with Bluetooth heart rate monitors) or offer food logging, it doesn’t remind you when it’s time to get up and move around, and it doesn’t offer some of the pay-integrated bells and whistles of some of the other daily wearables like the Jawbone UP 4. So if you’re looking to use a wearable to quantify your commute so that you can justify that beer after work, Moov Now probably isn’t the best fit.
Moov Now is really designed for people who are looking for guidance and detailed tracking during active workouts and training. The daily tracking is something that makes it useful in the time between workouts, but where Moov Now really shines is in its fitness programs: boxing, running, swimming, cycling, and the “7-minute” interval body weight workouts.
Making sense of all that activity data
Thanks to Moov’s accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope sensor combination, Moov Now is capable of not only making sense of its raw data in terms of speed and distance, but also how you move in 3D space. Along with relatively standard metrics like miles, pace and cadence, Moov Now measures impact and stride, power, elevation, and impact angles. Simply put, it can provide you with a whole lot of information that can help you improve your form and avoid injury, particularly when paired with the AI coaching elements in the fitness programs.
“It goes beyond just the steps, just a number — it’s actionable guidance,” says Li. “In order to give you the guidance during your workout, Moov has to know exactly how you move… how your ankle or your wrist move in 3D space.”
How does that work, exactly? Well let’s start with the hardware.
Accelerometers aren’t necessarily uncommon in wearables. Used to track speed, distance and steps more accurately, they’re kind of a necessary component for fitness trackers. That said, most trackers don’t also sport the one-two punch of an magnetometer and gyroscope.
“On the hardware side, instead of just an accelerometer,” says Li, “Moov incorporates a magnetometer and a gyroscope. So, the magnetometer is used to understand your orientation.”
She gives the example of boxing. There are four major punches in boxing: jab, cross, hook and uppercut. They all come from different angles. The magnetometer senses where your momentum is coming from, can accurately identify a punch, and give you feedback on form (which we’ll get to in a little more detail momentarily).
“Another sensor we have that most other trackers don’t is the gyroscope, so the gyroscope is used to understand your rotation,” says Li.
A good example of this would be range of motion. Using the gyroscope, the Moov Now can interpret forward and backward motion in space and translate it into a useful metric that can help the wearer hone in on an the most effective strides for running faster, further, or more efficiently.
“The gyroscope, together with the magnetometer and the accelerometer, complete the full picture of how you move in 3D space.”
How Moov’s software shapes up
Now let’s touch on the software elements of Moov Now. We’ve established that the Moov core collects a lot of data, but the software that makes sense of that data and presents it to you in a meaningful way is crucial.
“On top of the hardware is the algorithms,” says Li. “Now that we have the raw data, how can we interpret the data, and also what does that mean in the human body?”
Context is critical to understanding data, and that brings us to Moov Now’s standout feature: the AI coaching. Working with coaches from a variety of sports, the Moov team built its fitness programs around useful feedback for training, improvement and form correction.
“For running, the way your run — the form — not only helps you to prevent injury,” says Li, “but can also help people to improve their miles and their performance.”
And that’s where things get really interesting. Now, not only are we talking about a wearable that keeps track of the work you do, but one that actually tells you how to do it better.
When I’m running slower than I normally do, Moov pushes me to pick up the pace. When I’m consistently moving faster than the goal for the running level I’m on, Moov suggests that I level up to something more appropriate. It’s hard to express how helpful that real-time feedback and proactive coaching is, but I think it comes down to the way that it feels to know that something is really actively working alongside you as you work out. You’re not alone on your runs–there’s AI tech in your ear keeping you honest, keeping you from slacking off, and when push comes to shove, kicking your ass into going the extra mile.
Improvement is an huge part of the Moov programs, but the other major element is injury prevention, and that’s invaluable.
Dipping into new workouts when you don’t know what you’re doing can be dangerous. Bad form when you’re running can tear up your legs and ankles and bad form when you’re boxing can lead to breaks and strains. There’s risk that comes from bad form in every activity, and in things, bad form just plain old slows you down. Using the sensor triple-threat, Moov can sense things like high impact and bad angles and coach you through those mistakes to help you stay healthy.
In a lot of ways, Moov Now feels like a new kind of personal wearable — one that’s lighter, more versatile, and that has the ability to keep you interested.
“From day one when we designed the device and the system,” says Li, “we were aware of the problem that happens to the first-gen (step trackers) products. So when we designed Moov…we were asking ourselves, ‘Why would people throw it into a drawer?'”
They came up with a few problems that might’ve landed the first-gens in drawers, including poor, high-maintenance form factors that weren’t easy to wear and a lack of variety in metrics and feedback. But perhaps the biggest problem that led to the Drawer Problem was much simpler: boredom.
Final thought: An impressive tracker for the price
Bearing that in mind, the Moov team set out to make Moov Now better than the wearables before it by making it more useful, building in variety and adaptability, and giving users more to do within the app. Moov Now makes itself easy to wear with its light footprint, but it’s also waterproof (obviously, as it’s designed to work with swimming fitness programs), so you don’t have to take it off when you shower (unlike Fitbit and Jawbone wearables). You don’t even have to charge it — Moov Now’s CR2032 battery lasts up to six months before it needs to be changed. With the variety in the fitness programs and their hundreds of different levels, I have to say I don’t see myself getting bored anytime soon.
Moov Now begins shipping preorders at the end of October, and beginning November 11, you’ll be available to buy the units in Apple Retail Stores. You can purchase the core devices individually or in a pair (which is helpful if you’re interested in the boxing programs). The single device comes in at $79 and the pair at $159, but preorder prices hack a hefty 25 percent off of the bottom lines, bringing the price tags down to $60 and $100 respectively.
Update: Moov will begin shipping preorders at the end of October, not yesterday (10/15) as previously stated.