Smart glasses

Will augmented reality save gyms?


The number of people opting to exercise independently at home with the help of virtual instructors who lead fitness classes is on the rise. This developing trend in customer behaviour is becoming an increasing threat to the gym industry. So, how can clubs compete with the wave of consumer products and stay relevant to their clients?

What used to be reserved for gamers is now slowly unfolding in the fitness industry. Modern technologies are exploding into the fitness scene, focusing on merging adventure and entertainment with exercise. It’s enabling various industries to redefine existing ways of experiencing things. Both AR and VR are transforming how people are doing workouts by delivering real-life immersive experiences that make exercising more fun, engaging and effective. 

The potential of AR

When it comes to fitness, VR environments demand the user’s full attention, which makes the technology badly suited to real-life social interaction in the club and may have more serious safety implications at the gym.

With AR, your customers would be able to see someone performing the correct form in front of them while still being able to view the rest of their actual surroundings. This may be why AR is expected to have a bigger impact on the market and is predicted to reach USD 60.55 billion by 2023. Even heavyweight brands like Samsung, Sony, and Google, have already integrated AR and VR with their devices to provide entertainment-focused fitness experiences. Based on these trends, it’s been forecast that the global smart wearable fitness and sports devices market will grow at a CAGR of 25.22% and 38.35%, respectively, during the period 2016-2020.

Though, like with any new and emerging technology, there are still some drawbacks to its real-life application right now. The limited user interface (UI) affecting the navigation performance of AR applications, as well as limited processing power, varied infrastructure quality of digital networks, restricted size of memory cards in mobile phones, and less storage availability is likely to hinder the growth of AR right now. 

How AR can help gyms to thrive?

As its technology improves, examples of immersive technology in the fitness industry continue to grow. 

1. Real-time Data

One of the biggest benefits of using AR as part of your club’s offering is real-time data availability. Proving your consumers with real-time data visualisation that can link in with their wearable device will really help your customer identify what’s going on – how many calories they’ve burnt, how far they’ve got left to swim and how much weight or how many reps they need to complete will also help them to observe the intensity of their workout to prevent overtraining and over-straining. 

This type of technology can really improve your client’s overall experience at your gym and truly set you apart from your competitors by acting as a fantastic motivator and incentive to keep them coming back to your club. 

An example of real-time data use in AR can be seen with Solos, which takes wearables to another level using smart specs that display workout metrics right in front of them. Oculus Rift is another such device in which users are trained by the virtual trainer through an exercise routine. This could be particularly useful to have as an additional offering at your gym. Some of your clients may not be able to afford to hire a personal trainer but want more personalised advice. By having this technology at hand, you could fill not only a potential gap in the market but also create a new revenue stream that competes with current online and at-home offerings. 

2. Flexibility

AR may help impart flexibility to your customers without affecting the quality and intensity of their workout. As a fitness facility, you may wish to utilise these devices by renting them out to consumers while at your gym or allow them to temporarily take the device home as part of a different subscription model. By doing this, your business will be able to support your clients to workout, not only at their own pace and time but also at home or in your gym. This flexibility will help your club retain customers by giving them the opportunity to workout with you anywhere, anytime. Better still, can you imagine – it would give a next-gen immersive experience for your gym goers that capitalises on the rise of at-home fitness. 

An interesting example of this technology can be seen in a device called ARX FIT. It uses built-in AR to provide a flexible way for people to workout with a personalised trainer that can create programmes for your clients based on their availability and capacity while also keeping track of their strength level using specific software. Users can also see their trainer while working out and communicate with them too. Blended AR Glasses are provided that imitate the virtual environment and the fun element of videos containing different exercise games. 

3. Shared experiences, gamification and competition

Many of the available AR-enabled apps and devices allow users to record their data and share it. Many also allow multi-user functions so users can compare and compete with one another. Gyms could also enable or build this technology into their own apps as an easy way to boost their client motivation and create greater community engagement within the club. 

AR can make fitness more interesting and entertaining by adding games, videos, and rewarding elements that will ensure your gym stays relevant. 

Wrapping up

Using Immersive Technology in gyms is definitely a step in the right direction. AR has a massive potential to grow the fitness industry exponentially. They will play a key role in helping gyms stay up to date and remain competitive against the online market by providing additional value to their customers while also creating new revenue streams. 

However, due to the current accessibility of this emerging technology, it may take some time before it’s widely adopted in clubs. Perhaps a mixed digital delivery system could be the first step for gyms, where video workouts already being used in clubs could link in with clients’ real-time data and wearables, for example.

Are you already using immersive technology in your gyms right now? Do you think AR will play a major role in the future of gyms?