IBM’s Watson is the exercise coach you didn’t know you wanted
New Year’s resolutions are hard to stick by, especially if they revolve around fitness. But by using the power of IBM’s Watson, Under Armour wants to help you stick to the mantra so many of us chant into our mirrors on 1 January: “new year, new you”.
Unveiled at this year’s CES as part of Under Armour’s UA Record app, Watson brings Big Data-crunching to workout regimes around the world. At its simplest, Watson takes data from all other UA Record users and spits out insights gleaned from users with a similar physique and fitness regime to you.
Want to lose some weight without going all out on the fitness front? Watson can tell you that those who sleep seven to eight hours a night also have the lowest BMI, so catch some more zees to shed the pounds.
How about some small workouts? Watson can tell you that, according to data from people similar to you, by tracking steps you’ll walk an average of 2,000 more steps a day. You can’t complain if weight loss is made as simple as that.
While this sort of data crunching isn’t new for fitness apps, Watson integration goes beyond simple number crunching and insight. IBM and Under Armour’s plan is to eventually integrate information from IBM’s Weather Channel to help your workout.
For instance, do people burn more fat when they work out in the rain, or in the sunshine? Perhaps your Sunday morning run might not actually be the optimal time for you to get your jog on, with Watson suggesting the perfect time comes later in the day when the weather is warmer.
Watson has a track record of proving itself useful in every field it enters. Having already tackled everything from the kitchen to the medical-device industry, perhaps personal fitness is an apt next challenge for the supercomputer. One worry, however, is that this anonymised data could wind up outside of UA Record and instead grace the computers of healthcare specialists around the world.
Although this could provide a valuable insight into human health, it’s alarming that such mass data collection can take place with – as far as we know – UA Record users not being able to opt out of the service.
It’s also worth wondering just how accurate Watson’s help could be. For instance, do those sleeping longer have a lower BMI because of sleep, or can they just sleep better because they have a lower BMI? There’s also concern over just how accurate fitness trackers really are. If Watson is harvesting data from different devices via Under Armour’s app, how well can it account for discrepancies?
Until we find out more details, let’s just revel in the fact that getting fit might have got a bit easier.