GOQii band adds the human element to wearable fitness trackers

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By Nikhil Subramaniam /  04 Mar 2014 , 15:49

Vishal Gondal is a well-known name in Indian tech circles. Having founded Indiagames (which was sold off to Disney for $100 million in 2011) and helped numerous other ventures get off the ground, Gondal has been focussing on the next generation of devices. Riding the big wave of wearables, Gondal has co-founded GOQii (pronounced Go-Key), a startup and a device that could potentially change the way we view wearables.

As we know there’s a whole lot of data that wearables gather constantly, but there’s often just an app or a virtual portal where you can view and adjust your fitness regime. This is not always ideal as studies have shown human motivation works better. It’s more intuitive, can be equally compassionate and scathing when required. This human touch is often missing in wearables.

Goqii aims to introduce just that by adding a human element to your workout. “This is where wearable technology meets the world’s best experts and coaches, who together are trying to help you make a shift in lifestyle,” Vishal Gondal, founder and chief executive of GOQii, told Re/Code.

Goqii itself is a free device, but users will be paying for the service of having human coaches who will work alongside the companion app to help you keep your workout goals. For Rs 9,999, you can get the service for a year, while for a six-month subscription, you would have to fork out Rs 5,999. The company plans to launch the device in US, UK, Singapore and UAE, but from this April, 1000 Indians will be able to join the pilot programme.

The subscription fee includes advice and motivation from the fitness coach  and experts via video/audio calls and a messaging service. This puts you directly in touch with the fitness instructor and allows them to keep a closer eye on your workout. While it’s always easy to turn off a wristband or any other device which keeps telling you to pump it up, it’s much harder to do that with a voice, that you have become familiar with.

“The GOQii philosophy is driven by the passion for healthy and meaningful living. Having used many other wearable tech products, I felt that something was missing – they were just a bunch of gadgets, apps and online data-crunching solutions, which lacked sustained engagement, motivation, customized advice or a human connection. I needed something more than data; I was looking for a complete solution for a more fulfilling way of life. With GOQii we have created the solution,” Gondal said in a press statement.

The Goqii ecosystem
The Goqii ecosystem

The price also includes the Goqii band, which has an OLED display that shows you the amount of calories burnt, the distance you have run, and also tracks you sleep patterns.

The Goqii companion app will help you share your stats with friends on social networks, and also keeps a track of your Karma points, which can be redeemed through some of Goqii’s merchant partners. Users will be able to donate Karma points to a charity of their choice, with third-parties matching their contribution dollars. As of now, non-profit group Oxfam has signed up with more coming on board soon. This app also takes care of communicating with your fitness instructors.

The band itself resembles the Samsung Gear Fit wearable with its slim shape, though the display is not curved as in the Samsung tracker. It comes in a sweat-proof and water resistant body, that’s available in either black or red or in a mix of both. It packs a motion sensor, which measures your activity and sleep patterns. Goqii syncs with your phone using Bluetooth 4.0 LE, which keeps power consumption to a minimum. It has a touch-sensitive OLED display and is touted to run up to 4-5 days on a single charge.

The gaming-inspired logo is also inscribed on the band of the Goqii
The gaming-inspired logo is also inscribed on the band of the Goqii

In addition, the Goqii has a unique Hi-5 feature wherein a coach can step in to congratulate you as they can see your workout metrics in real-time. To make sure your sleep pattern is well adjusted to your workout regime, the wearable has a custom-designed humm vibration module to act as an alarm.

The company has roped in many fitness experts who will be helping participants in the programme with personalised tips. These include Shriram Nene MD, FACS, in Vascular, Thoracic, and Cardiothoracic Vascular surgeon with over twenty years of experience and is affiliated with various hospitals in United States. Nene’s wife noted Indian actress Madhuri Dixit is reportedly one of the angel investors in the company. In addition, Goqii has tied up with Kendra Markle, affiliated with Stanford Prevention Research Center, a researcher on stealth health and ways to use mobile and social media to change behaviour and Luke Coutinho, an author, nutritionist, speaker and health coach who believes in making people shift their lifestyles to achieve their health goals. Notable angel investors include including Google Senior VP Amit Singhal, Flextronics CEO Mike McNamara, and Seagate CEO Steve Luczo among others.

Singhal, for whom this is the first angel investing experience, told Re/Code: “The distinction comes in the service, what those devices can actually do for you. I haven’t seen anyone else in the market who was doing this.”

Goqii seems to have the right intentions, though there’s still a big debate on whether wearables do actually end up making a difference or are just status symbols for the tech-savvy. While that debate is not about to end anytime soon, the fact Samsung and other major manufacturers are also betting big on this category, can only bode well for startups like Goqii. While a ‘remote’ fitness instructor might not appeal to those who are serious about exercise as much as getting a personal trainer, Goqii definitely has a leg up over other garden-variety fitness trackers.


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