Atlas Wearables is a small company in the fitness world that hopes to lift outside of its weight class. The company’s new product, The Atlas, is poised to go head-to-head with industry champions like the Nike + Fuelband, Garmin’s Vivofit, and Fitbit.
At first look, it seems futile for this small company to attempt to disrupt these industry giants with a crowd-funded prototype. However, if all goes according to plan, the Atlas wristband will do much more than any other product currently on the market.
The Atlas will track steps and calories like all the other bracelets but will be the first to recognize and record fitness moves during a workout.
It will be able to tell when users are doing traditional moves like pushups and squats, or the more unorthodox fare favored by the Crossfit community like rope climbs and tire flips. With enough funding, the Atlas team even hopes to waterproof the device for swimming.
“The atlas experience revolves around two things,” said Peter Li, the company’s CEO and co-founder. “There’s the band itself, with real time feedback on basic analytics like heart rate, but the most juicy part is in the app experience. It will come with a free app you’ll be able to sync to so you can track your workouts and see how they are affecting your growth rate.”
The Atlas is being designed to take in a wealth of information and use motion sensors and an accelerometer to track users on the X, Y, and Z axis as they exercise.
“The analogy we use is if you have a dot of paint on your wrist and everywhere you move it will leave a trail of paint,” Li said.
He added that the Atlas can sense small variations in movement.
“The real magic is how specific the algorithm is,” he said.
“The first time we knew we had something big was when we could tell the difference between regular push-ups and triangle push-ups [a subtle variation in hand placement of just a few inches.]”
Atlas users will also be able to share their workout information to compete with friends, other gym members, and perhaps even fitness celebrities worldwide. Alternately, users can compete against a “ghost” of themselves as they attempt to beat their own personal bests.
Li thinks the ability to compete with friends or against one’s own personal records will be motivational, and motivation is critical for anyone trying to stick with an exercise program.
He saw this first hand as an undergraduate student when he helped with a volunteer fitness program. Participants in a weight loss study had their progress measured every two weeks.
“What really dawned on me was that the sense of extrinsic motivators and responsibility is powerful,” Li said. “Having data and seeing how workouts are affecting your body is incredibly powerful. Right now there is no technology solution in the gym that can effectively [provide that data.]”
Li began tinkering with Atlas during his spare time as a biomedical engineering masters student at Johns Hopkins University. He graduated in 2013 and focused on the device full time with childhood friend Michael Kasparian, the company’s co-founder and CTO.
Atlas now counts five employees including its co-founders. The company moved to Austin 13 months ago after an invitation from the startup accelerator Techstars and used Austin’s thriving fitness community to its maximum advantage.
“The fitness community here is very strong and the help we get from them is incredible,” Li said. “A lot of the trainers and fitness gurus are very open to help.”
Just how much the Atlas will be able to do at its launch, scheduled for the end of the year, will depend on how much funding the company can attract before then. An Indiegogo campaign has raised more than $394,000 at press time and Li said the company needs $500,000 to waterproof the device. With $750,000 they can add more analytics to the workout log and at $1 million can add vibration alerts (a timer for rest duration, an alert for doing a move improperly, etc.)
Li said the company has reached its goal for basic production and the company plans to do its first production runs in the third quarter of 2014.
The device will recognize between 50 and 100 workout moves at launch and should be on the market by the end of the year.