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Hands-on with Vi, the fitness coach in your ear

Caitlin McGarry | June 2, 2016
This new activity tracker is like a Fitbit, Amazon Echo, and a pair of Beats rolled into one product.

vi text 
Vi will text you with exercise advice just like a personal trainer would. Credit: LifeBeam

First impressions

Before I hit the treadmill with Vi’s voice in my ear, I was skeptical. “I’m not sure I would ever wear this running,” I wrote in my notes while watching another journalist take her turn on the treadmill. I’ve used a gazillion fitness trackers before, but none on my head.

I laced up some sneakers and hopped on the treadmill, earbuds snugly placed around my head. I started walking, and Vi told me my heart rate. Then she told me to increase my speed to get in the fat-burning zone.

We’re all used to talking to our devices by now, and chatting with Vi was no different. She reponds to various commands, but you’re not gonna have a full-blown conversation. (Not that you’d be able to do so while running anyway.) When she told me my heart rate, I could actually hear the thump of my heart beating in my ears, which was both cool and slightly strange. The earbuds themselves were more comfortable than the cheap sport pair I bought but almost never use. The Harman/Kardon sound was above average, as expected. I’m more interested in Vi’s possibilities, though. Yoffe told me that Vi is sort of like a fitness-minded version of Samantha from the Spike Jonze film Her. One day, LifeBeam’s headset will be a pair of wireless earbuds that you can chat with any time.

I only tested out a prototype of Vi for a few minutes, but I’m intrigued to see if the final product turns out to be the personal trainer I so desperately need but don’t want to pay for. At launch, the device will work best for runners, but software updates will expand Vi’s training capabilities to swimmers and bikers down the line. The headphones will run continuously for eight hours on a single charge—not bad for a pair of Bluetooth earbuds.

Vi is currently available to preorder on Kickstarter for $199 and will retail for $249. The device starts shipping in December.

 

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