Fitness devices start to flex: Tech Tonic with Vishal Mathur

Updated on Jul 02, 2022 05:58 PM IST

New devices, made in India, for India, are offering to liven up exercise routines with VR experiences, magic mirrors, real-time feedback and live stats.

Portl’s smart mirror uses sensors and a camera to analyse your form as you work out. PREMIUM
Portl’s smart mirror uses sensors and a camera to analyse your form as you work out.

Mirror, mirror on the wall… can finally be a question of some significance.

There’s a revolution underway, and it’s centered on the home workout. A range of new devices, made in India, for India, are offering to liven up exercise routines with VR experiences, magic mirrors, real-time feedback and live stats.

On smart exercise bikes, users can create their own profiles, pick scenic rides and opt for personalised virtual training sessions. The devices also offer users granular data on usage (posture, intensity, routine). A magic mirror by Portl uses sensors and a camera to analyse your form as you work out.

Interestingly, these products are all homegrown, with some consolidation already visible in the market and even the beginnings of a price war.

The Cultbike, for instance, has a 22-inch touchscreen and offers more than 100 scenic rides and a daily schedule of online training classes ranging from live to on-demand sessions on yoga, cardio and strength workouts. Users can reserve slots in advance for live sessions. Priced at 42,999, all training content is free until March 2023.

Cultbike started out as TreadOne, a flagship product by Tread, a Bengaluru-based start-up. A year ago, the Indian gym chain and fitness platform Cult.Fit acquired Tread and rebranded the bike. Cult.Fit has plans for more hardware soon.

At the other end of the price scale is the Gurugram-based Flexnest, founded in early 2021. Its Flexbike has the screens, the training sessions and the scenic rides, with one addition: an app for streaming on-demand personal training and workout classes, on the phone and tablet too. Prices start at 27,999 with all online and training content included for a year. The rider: The entry-level Flexbike has no in-built display; users must attach a tablet to it. The Flexbike+, with 22-inch HD touchscreen, costs about 54,999. The core mechanics of both machines are the same.

Another Gurugram-based company, Synq.Fit, joins the party this year. The entry level Synq.Fit bike, similar to the Flexbike (it too has no built-in display), costs 69,999. The Synq.Fit Pro with 22-inch touchscreen is priced at 1.20 lakh.

Perhaps the most imaginative approach comes from the Hyderabad-based Portl. Its virtual mirror, Portl Studio, launched earlier this year, is essentially a 43-inch reflective screen with an HD camera and sensors built in. Together, these map a user’s movements and relay the data to an AI assistant that steps in with instant feedback and corrective steps.

While the premise itself is engaging, subscriptions are a big part of the Portl Studio jigsaw. The device costs about 1.25 lakh, and subscriptions open up access to curated online classes on strength and conditioning, high intensity interval training or HIIT, dance, yoga and meditation, among others.

An add-on, Portl Biosense, is a wearable (like a smartwatch, and part of the bundle) that tracks the wearer’s heart rate, blood sugar, temperature and other metrics, adding context to workouts and creating a map of overall wellness. So, mirror, mirror on the wall… which is the fittest of them all?

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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