Denver-based Exer Labs today announced $2 million in funding and unveiled its Exer Studio app for the Mac. Drawing on AI and computer vision, Exer Studio captures your movements with your laptop’s camera to evaluate your form and offer coaching advice. It can share your results with friends, fitness coaches, and others, while a Peloton-style leaderboard motivates you to work harder.
CEO Zaw Thet said in an interview with VentureBeat that Exer relies on edge-based AI (meaning it uses your smartphone’s computing power) and computer vision to power its motion coaching platform. It offers real-time audio and visual feedback on almost any type of human motion via a Mac (and its camera), without needing a human in the loop. The company’s mission is to help people move, train, and play better. Coaches can also use the app to build up their virtual classes and see at a glance who needs help.
“Gyms have closed and are having trouble opening back up,” Thet said. “There are more than 300,000 professionals who aren’t able to train people in person. They have switched to streaming workouts, but it’s hard to keep people engaged on Zoom.”
The company has raised $4.5 million to date. Investors in the latest round include GGV, Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures, Morado Ventures, Range VC, Service Provider Capital, Shatter Fund, MyFitnessPal cofounders Mike Lee and Albert Lee, and existing investors Signia Venture Partners and former Zynga executive David Ko.
Fitness in the pandemic
Thet said the Mac app captures your movements and lets you know how many repetitions you’ve done and whether your form is correct while comparing your results to a leaderboard. The app can also use voice coaching to tell you how to fix your posture so you get the most out of your workout, Thet said. Peloton has become very popular as people turn to online fitness during lockdowns, and Thet hopes Exer Studio can fill a similar need.
“It’s something we can do now when you can’t go to the gym,” Thet said.
The pandemic has made virtual workouts a necessity — TD Ameritrade said its survey of 2,009 adults found 59% of fitness consumers are hesitant to return to in-person gyms. Exer Studio’s enhanced virtual workouts can help coaches retain and grow their communities by enhancing their digital offering with something more exciting than a standard Zoom call. Real-time workout data, post-workout summaries, and competitive session leaderboards give consumers the feedback they’ve missed, Thet said.
“We’re really trying to democratize health and wellness,” Thet added.
Exer previously launched iOS app Perfect Plank to coach people doing planks. The company also has a beta version of its physical therapy app on iOS. The apps are free for coaches while in beta training, but the company will adopt a software-as-a-service model, Thet said.
The tech is pretty cool. Exer’s AI tracks motion and form using cameras on people’s laptops or smartphones. The AI performs real-time motion tracking on 18 to 20 body points to generate a score. The instructor can see how hard each person in a class is working at a glance and send a high five to individuals or the whole class.
The app works with MacOS 10.13 or later and is coming to all browsers and other devices soon. The coach’s interface is web-only, so they don’t need to use a Mac. When you are doing a workout, you can pit yourself against someone with a high score on a leaderboard. Your output score tracks closely to calories burned, while your “Power Zone” percentage score reflects your current effort level.
“We found that most coaches use laptops for their training sessions,” Thet said.
In addition to Thet, the Exer team includes CTO Sean Cook and head coach Clint Gehde.
Thet is a serial entrepreneur, having also cofounded and served as CEO of 4INFO, one of the first and largest mobile advertising platforms in the world. In 2011, he was selected as one of 10 entrepreneurs to serve on the United Nations Foundation’s inaugural Global Entrepreneurs Council, where he is now an emeritus board member.
Cook is the founder of Frontier Labs, which was acquired by Exer in 2019, and a founding member of Twitter’s mobile team, where for six years he helped build and perfect the app across every major mobile platform at scale.
Gehde has a background in kinesiology and fitness. The founder of e3 Fitness in Denver and a trainer and mentor for nearly two decades, he touts the e3 Program as a breakthrough that has helped dismantle barriers to maintaining an ongoing fitness plan. His training programs have helped everyone from fitness enthusiasts to professional athletes.
Exer has been recruiting coaches as evangelists, including veterans Kyle Bergman, Angela Lou, and Keisha Saddler.