Running is fairly straightforward, right? You get a pair of shoes, wear some marginally athletic clothing and head for the hills. It's a good idea to enlist the help of a smartwatch or fitness tracker to keep tabs on your progress, but generally there's not much to it.
Wrong - running is going up a gear. And it's thanks to companies like Shft who are looking to provide runners of all levels with coaching on aspects of their pavement pounding.
The Danish startup is currently looking for Kickstarter funding on its second device, the Shft IQ — a wearable pod designed to help beginner and intermediate runners track data and receive personal feedback. It can fit onto either shoe or attach to your chest and is currently available for $69.
We spoke to CEO and co-founder Tony Motzfeldt to find out what Shft is bringing to the table this time around and why it could prove to be an important addition to your running ensemble.
"When we started this back in 2013 there was nothing for runners," said Motzfeldt, whose background includes being on the Danish national cycling team. "You could read a book about chi running or post running, but there was nothing to actually coach you.
"I sat my partners down and said, 'Can we track watt measurements? Can we see how much power we're using? Can we see how hard and what position we land?' They came back and said yes, and since then we went all in."
Shft's first product allowed the runner to engage with two pods as opposed to the upcoming IQ's singular device, though Motzfeldt insists the newer product won't be a reduced experience, thanks to a partnership with Intel that will help bring aboard artificial intelligence.
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"From a user perspective, we've learned a lot," Motzfeldt told us. "We're very proud of the metrics and all the data, but we also found that it scared some away. Our dream from the very beginning was that you felt a connection to your Shft coach - that's the most important thing, not the metrics.
"From a technical point of view, Shft IQ is going to be step upwards from what we've had. We've been working with Intel for around eight months, and we're using the new Curie chipset with the artificial intelligence built into it. This will help Shft analyse things like your gait and tell you more about it in real time."
Spot the difference
The real-time coaching scene within wearables has progressed rapidly since Shft was born, seeing the likes of Lumo and Moov gain traction. As a result, it's fair to question what makes the IQ different from its competitors.
"The challenge we all face is that this is a new market segment, so runners need to be aware that there's actually something that can help them run correctly. It's not a Garmin watch, it's not a Runkeeper, it's something completely new," Motzfeldt said.
"We're focusing on the coaching elements, whereas some other companies focus very much on power. We have that as well, but we use it in the background in a different way. We think we're taking things a step further.
"A lot of other products talk about their coach but we believe that ours is more advanced. We want it to feel like you've got a coach running next to you, looking at everything you do and then translating that into a simple instruction."
The guts of the device would appear to be able to propel the coaching platform to the next level, allowing you to take advantage of reports, stats, training drills and advice in real-time. Whether it can deliver this accurately in real time and seamlessly through its companion app will be unknown until it's out in the wild, though.
So, the all important question here: is the Shft IQ worth backing?
It's clear from the outset that this device ticks a lot of boxes. Shft has experience in bringing a product to market, meaning it's not completely fresh to fulfilling orders, while its collaboration with a reputable partner like Intel boosts the likelihood of it hitting the September 2017 shipping target.
There's also the usual saving incentive, with the Shft IQ's early bird offers allowing you to skim up to $50 off the eventual retail tag of $109.
If you're looking to improve your form and you're confident the Intel-powered AI can get you there, this seems like a strong option. Just be aware that it's not the only solution in the field of wearable running coaches.
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