leadforensics Talking point: Artificial Intelligence
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Talking point: Artificial Intelligence

Is AI scary science, or a way to improve customer service and workout results? Kath Hudson talk to those in the know about the potential of this emerging technology

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 6

Cameron Brooks,

European Director for Watson in the public sector,

IBM

Cameron Brooks
Cameron Brooks

At IBM we prefer the term augmented intelligence to artificial intelligence. We are not wanting to replicate human behaviour, but aiming to augment and advise, so the machine learns while it is being supervised by humans, and in turn can keep improving its knowledge to give better advice.

This technology is already being used to good effect in the healthcare industry. Our AI tool, Watson, has trawled through thousands of journals and medical records and so can recommend treatments for doctors to use. It’s a collaboration between man and machine – if the doctor wishes to revise the recommendation, then Watson learns and takes it into account next time.

Now we’re working with Under Armour to create an app that will act as personal health consultant and trainer, by providing users with evidence-based coaching around sleep, activity and nutrition, comparing the user to people like them.

We’re also working with Arthritis Research UK, so people with the condition will be able to get access to personalised information in a way that feels like a natural conversation. Currently being tested, it will be available later in the year on the charity’s website and will help millions of people.

In the health and fitness sector, data could be taken from wearables, which is being generated every day. So we could create a tool that asks questions of the individual and combines this with the knowledge aggregated from lots of other users to give them a programme that is specific to them.

Augmented intelligence would allow gym operators to give better, more personalised advice to their clients, which could lead to better results and retention. We welcome collaboration with industry professionals in order to build the most effective and helpful tools.

"IBM is working with Under Armour to create an app which will act as personal health consultant and trainer, by providing users with evidence-based coaching around sleep, fitness activity and nutrition" – Cameron Brooks, IBM

IBM Watson-enabled AI robots help the elderly – will AI PTs be next? / Jack Plunkett/IBM
IBM Watson-enabled AI robots help the elderly – will AI PTs be next? / Jack Plunkett/IBM

Cliff Chen,

Founder,

Locus New Media

Cliff Chen
Cliff Chen

We launched our AI personal trainer, Vi, in June. Vi lives in bio-sensing ear phones and delivers training advice.

It’s very exciting, but we’re still only at the beginning of the journey. To start with, we’ve focused on fine-tuning our running coaching module, but we’re looking forward to activating more features, for example the ability to sense elevation and the addition of more sports.

Going forward, we’re exploring interfaces with other network-ready devices, for instance syncing with exercise machines to get data and to track repetitions when doing weights. Also, we want it to be able to give meaningful advice outside the workout, for example reporting on rest and recovery.

We’ve aimed to create the sense of presence of a human being, so Vi will become a workout buddy, who will push you to new limits or hold you accountable for a missed workout.

The tech angle could act as a compelling hook to an audience that is out of touch with body and activity. Equally, those who are already active could be coached to shave minutes off their 10k time. AI is a great tool to accomplish that because of the real-time vocal feedback.

Some people think of AI as a scary threat. This could be the case in some fields, such as self driving cars, but we don’t see it as threatening jobs in the fitness industry – there’s no replacement for a human who can watch form and adjust in real time. In fact, we see Vi as a way human trainers can keep track of their clients’ activities between sessions.

We’d love to partner with the industry and adapt the product, so that it’s better for everyone to make their workout even more rich and enjoyable.

"We don’t see AI as threatening jobs in the fitness industry - there’s no replacement for a human who can watch form and adjust in real time" – Cliff Chen, creator of Vi

Vi, a AI-enabled ‘personal trainer’, is delivered via bio-sensing earphones
Vi, a AI-enabled ‘personal trainer’, is delivered via bio-sensing earphones

David Minton,

Founder,

The Leisure Database Company

David Minton
David Minton

The fitness industry needs to embrace AI and be open to the opportunity it represents – by making things easier for the consumer it does have the potential to increase participation.

Operators need to look at how other industries are using AI – like fashion, food and restaurants. More than 100,000 businesses are currently using AI on Facebook Messenger, using chatbots to reply to questions from customers. The more they’re used, the more they learn and the more effective they become.

There’s also the opportunity to feed into other eco systems with live timetables. For example, if people are talking on social media about going to a spinning class, a bot from the gym could pop up to encourage them to book in. If they take part in the class, the following week it will remind them again. In short, it will communicate with customers a lot more than operators do now!

"If people are talking on social media about going to a class, a bot from the gym could pop up to encourage them to book. In short, it will communicate with customers a lot more than operators do now!"– David Minton, LeisureDB

Over 100,000 businesses are now using AI on Facebook Messenger / PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Over 100,000 businesses are now using AI on Facebook Messenger / PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Bryan K. O’Rourke,

President and principal in Vedere Ventures,

Fitness Industry Technology Council

Bryan K. O’Rourke
Bryan K. O’Rourke

Given that more than half of all customers will switch brands by 2020 if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs, AI is a tool many should embrace. Often a misapplied term, AI is simply a set of technology tools that can enhance business processes. Adopting AI is no different to making a switch from paper processes to email.

Within the fitness industry, AI has the potential to enhance efficiency, improve revenues and grow a more loyal customer base. For example, chatbots are being deployed with several fitness specific solutions coming to market. Chatbots simulate personalised human interactions, and solutions like https://chatfuel.com even let you create these bots without any coding experience.

AI could also be deployed to enhance CRM to improve revenues. For example, sales technology could work out the deals you’re working on by your calendar, email and phone interactions. AI-enhanced CRM automatically builds and monitors your pipeline, so you can focus on closing more deals.

AI could also help to grow a loyal membership base, by segmenting audiences and customising their journey, so customers receive the right offer at the right time, based on their preferences. With IBM’s Watson, Under Armour combines user data from its Record app with third-party data and research on fitness and nutrition. The result is the ability for the brand to offer up personalised training and lifecycle advice based on aggregated wisdom.

"Chatbots simulate personalised human interactions, and solutions….Imagine responding to client enquiries or sharing information proactively, without having to be directly involved "– Bryan K O’Rourke, Vedere Ventures

http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/HCM2017_6talking.jpg
Should Artificial Intelligence be feared or embraced by operators in the health and fitness industry? We asked the experts.
Sanit Group (Bio)
Sanit Group (Bio)
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