For those of you who haven’t met LifeBEAM Vi, it’s a real-time AI running coach who lives in a set Harman Kardon-powered headphones. Think of it, or her as we should say, as what you might get if Siri, Alexa or Cortana turned running coach.
LifeBEAM Vi boasts aerospace-grade biometric sensors that keep tabs on a good selection running stats such as pace, distance, heart rate and cadence but her skills extend beyond what your everyday running tracker might do. That’s because she’s also voice controlled and contextually aware so she can also pick up the weather, where you’re running, for example in a city, what time of day you tend to do your runs and also how long it’s been since you last ran.
The idea is that once she’s armed with all of these insights, Vi can offer real-time tips not just to make your training plan smarter but also give you in-run advice to help you run better too. That’s the theory at least.
Having tested Vi early on at launch, I felt there were quite a few gaps in her expertise that make her more suited to the couch-to-5km crowd than the serious runner. However, Vi is built in such a way that she can be updated constantly and new firmware upgrades bring new skills all the time. And I, for one, can see the huge potential that Vi represents for an AI coaching product like this.
And don’t get me wrong, there’s loads to love about LifeBEAM Vi as it is. It’s beautifully designed, the sound is top drawer and there are glimpses of run-coaching genius such as the in-run metronome drill that helps you improve your cadence. If this is a sign of things to come then I have high hopes for Vi.
And with that in mind, I’ve put together my wishlist for what I’d love this AI running tool to develop next.
Take a note
This might sound a little bit Alan Partridge but I get more than a few interesting thoughts (some might call them ideas) in my head as I run. I’m always convinced that I’m going to remember them while I’m running but sure enough the moment I stop they’re gone. I’d love a way to record them on the move, using voice activation to take a note. “Vi take a note: Monkey tennis. Smell my cheese. John Barnes’ Best Barns.”
Tell me jokes at random
From the moment you switch on Vi, you get a sense of personality that most other robot-voiced virtual run coaches lack. In fact the first thing Vi says to you is a joke. I’d love to see more of this. A well-timed, quality joke at random would be a nice way to break the monotony of some runs.
Or random facts about running (or anything else) as I run
Along the same lines, why not have Vi piping up with the occasional interesting tidbit as you run. These could be running related, or just QI-style morsels so you learn something while you run, or at least have something to take your mind off the run.
Store and deliver messages of support from my friends and family
The idea of in-run cheers has been around for a while but my take on this is slightly different. I’d like to be able to ask my friends and family to record and send messages to be stored with Vi, and to let Vi decide when to play them to me. Preferably using what she knows about my running to work out when I need them most.
Vi to do intervals
The Nike+ Run Club app took a battering when it relaunched but in recent months I think it’s come on in strides. The thing I really like are the audio coached sessions. These are all pre-recorded and you follow the drills in real time with different Nike coaches telling you exactly what you need to do next. Vi is made for this kind of guided set-up and among the sessions I’d like to see first are intervals.
Vi’s sense of fun is a strength and I think the developers could make even more of a feature of this by bringing a little gamification to a run. I’m not talking zombies run, maybe a bit more like a Vi-guided Fartlek, where she calls the shots, telling you when to speed up and when to slow down. You’d normally need other runners to do this properly but with Vi in your ear you could also do this solo.
Get the full picture on LifeBEAM Vi
Read my full Vi review over Techradar.com