Best Fitness Apps: How This A.I. Headset Finally Got Me Onto a Treadmill

It's like a personal trainer right in your ear.

Countless hours of video games may be good for the soul but it’s not good for the body. Getting started can be beyond intimidating, particularly if like me the machines in your local gym might as well be alien machinery. I could always personal trainer, I guess. But a professional’s undivided attention at the gym can run you a steep price tag, which is exactly why I enlisted the help of a robotic trainer.

There are actually a couple of options out there the tech proficient health laggard, from increasingly sophisticated wearables to humanoid robots that guide you in the proper form for a perfect crunch. To help me evolve from couch potato to Iron Man contestant, I decided to try out the Vi A.I. Personal Trainer (pronounced “Vee”).

This Bluetooth headset comes with built-in artificial intelligence that is completely designed to make you run faster, longer, and safer. Initially backed with one of the most successful Kickstarter drives ever, it’s since launched in earnest with a suite of new upgrades that let you prioritize certain things in your workouts, like whether you want to emphasize step training or your heart rate (Inverse took an earlier version of the device for a test drive back in March).

Vi A.I. Personal Trainer

While Vi didn’t turn me into a triathlete, the device did succeed in pushing me to hit the treadmill at least twice a week. This headset was most effective at guiding me through some fundamentals of how not to hurt myself during my workout sessions, but I wished it took the “personal trainer” a step further, for example by guiding me through stretches.

How to Set Up Vi Fitness’ A.I.

Before you get started with your new robotic personal trainer you have to sync your the headset to the Vi Fitness app. From here it will ask you for some basic physiological information about yourself and it’ll ask you what you want to get out of exercising. This whole process is pretty simple and Vi will talk you through the whole thing.

My favorite part of the product was its ability to get me motivated and keep me going throughout the workout. LifeBeam hired a voice actress to voice Vi, so the A.I. sounds very human-like, which helps it sound like a real personal trainer with some personality. Vi gives great advice on how to improve your step rate to reduce knee pain and gives you the occasional pep talk, while its A.I. monitors your heart rate and your form and occasionally checks in to let you know how you’re doing. You can adjust how chatty she is, too, if you’re feeling like a more solitary jog.

The app records your heart rate, running distance, calories burned, and distance traveled. All of this is saved in an easy to understand format. To take it a step further I would have liked to see more information about stretching and a selection of workout routines in the app itself. Vi advises you to stretch after you run but doesn’t tell you what stretches to do.

The Headset

The headset itself is pretty comfortable and can easily be used for non-exercising purposes. Before this, I’ve always used standard wired earbuds for pretty much everything; using Vi showed me how annoying life without bluetooth really is, particularly during exercise. No more worrying about accidentally yanking an earbud out with a wrong arm motion. And I could finally set my phone down somewhere instead of having it jostle around in my pocket.

While they were great for running when it came to other exercises, like pushups or situps, the chords connecting Vi’s rubber earbuds were a little too short. If I turned my neck a little too in either direction one of them would pop out.

Vi A.I. Personal Trainer


After my first week using Vi, I continued to use the headset for another week or two until I just started running on my own. After a while, Vi’s advice got a little repetitive and I felt that I could run two miles or so without the help of my A.I. friend.

All in all, I wish Vi brought a little more to the table, though it has since reduced its price to $129, and has plans to introduce new types of workouts and other functionality in the future. Serious fitness geeks may be better served by waiting for a more robust device, but for the nOOb who’s just trying to get started, you’ll find a lot to like.

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