Wondercise Studio wants to replace Zoom for connected fitness classes
At CES 2022, Wondercise is looking to shake up connected fitness with a series of intriguing launches, including a new stationary bike, TV app, and trackers. However, the Taiwanese company’s most intriguing launch is Wondercise Studio — a social media platform for fitness that lets anyone livestream their own class, complete with real-time metrics and performance feedback from fitness trackers.
Wondercise describes Studio as a “social media platform with a fitness focus,” but the reality is it’s more of a mish-mash of every bit of fitness tech currently out there. Users can voice and video chat with each other during livestreamed classes. Anyone can host their own class, and users also “follow” other users or instructors as you would on social media. If you have an Apple Watch, Garmin, or Wondercise’s own wearables, you can also see your metrics on-screen — along with the metrics of everyone else in the class. (And yes, your instructor can see them, too.) Classes can also be viewed either on a smartphone or cast to smart TVs with Google Chromecast.
“We have transformed from only on-demand classes to a social platform, and now we’re becoming a platform for the instructor and the user,” Wondercise CEO Eric Chuang told The Verge. Chuang went on to say that the next step after launching Studio will be an online booking system. The idea is for instructors to be able to put their classes on Wondercise, which can then be directly searched for and booked by users. He also noted that Wondercise was exploring multiple payment options to allow users to either subscribe to the entire service or pay for individual classes a la carte. Currently, the Wondercise app can be downloaded for free, though users can upgrade to an ad-free version for $9.99 per month.
Wondercise also highlighted its proprietary Live Motion Matching tech, which was introduced last year at CES 2021. It uses motion data recorded from wearables to evaluate your technique and form during a workout. According to Chuang, instructors wear four wearables — two on the arms and two on the legs — while recording classes. Those movements are then fed into an algorithm. When users follow along while wearing an Apple Watch, Garmin, or the Wondercise trackers, their movements are then compared to the instructor’s and graded on a 1-100 scale.
The company is also launching the Wondercise Cycle Studio. The Cycle Studio is a system made up of the company’s new Flex Cycle — a 4-in-1 exercise bike with four training modes and two seat configurations — and the Wondercise Timeless Band, a screenless fitness tracker to measure heart rate. Classes are provided via Wondercise Studio and tracked metrics include heart rate, elapsed time, distance, RPM, watts, and calories burned.
Wondercise’s final CES launch is the Wondercise Trilogy — a combination of a TV app, the Timeless Band, and the Wondercise tracker. Users can compete in up to four-player video game-like battle modes while getting feedback on their technique.
Nothing that Wondercise is bringing to the table is inherently new. Fitness startup Tempo has multiple gadgets that grade your form. Apple Fitness Plus and a handful of other apps display wearable data live on-screen. Peloton pioneered live and on-demand classes with leaderboards (as well as linking expensive hardware to expensive memberships). ClassPass has been hooking up users with studio classes for ages. During the pandemic, fitness instructors and influencers flocked to Zoom, TikTok, and Instagram to directly connect with customers. The novel thing here is how it’s all mushed together into a single platform. Right now, connected fitness has a major ecosystem problem. If you wanted to get all these features, you’d have to shop around for multiple gadgets — most of which are expensive — and possibly pay multiple subscriptions.
Wondercise’s success depends on whether it can convince people to take a gamble on a relatively untested fitness brand. Wondercise didn’t immediately respond to questions about pricing, but so far its products have been relatively affordable. Its original tracker retailed for $79, and Chuang also told The Verge that Wondercise’s products are purposefully open-source and aim to be less expensive than the competition. Hey, at least it’s a little more interesting than some other Peloton clones.