We’ve seen a lot of fitness tracking devices, and some of them have even managed to work in some personalized training features. But, we might not have seen any built around a single, smart AI personal trainer who can communicate with you even when you’re not wearing the headphones. That changes with Vi, who lives in a pair of wireless headphones that might be the best fitness wearable yet.
Vi is part of a small and growing number of devices that combines the two most important parts of exercise tech — tracking your workouts and playing music. We started seeing this a little bit with wireless Bluetooth in-ear headphones, and then started seeing it a lot with last year’s spate of true wireless earbuds, especially the Bragi Dash and the Jabra Elite Sport.
No true wireless earbuds with Vi — instead, we’re looking at a neck-worn device with Bluetooth earbuds that flare out from the sides and can be stored at the ends thanks to magnetic housings. Part of the reason Vi needs all that space is because of all the sensors included — heart rate and heart rate variability (found in one of the earbuds), plus sensors that pick up fitness stats and even the weather. As usual, those stats can be viewed on a smartphone app, which is available for iOS and Android.
The most important sensor might be the microphone. Headphones are no strangers to mics, and some can even put you in touch with Siri, Google Now, or custom trainers, but we haven’t seen anything quite like Vi in the world of fitness tech. Vi is a smart fitness coach that not only creates training plans for you, but also keeps you on top of those plans. She can also read off fitness stats on demand and help guide you through workouts, letting you know when you should go harder or ease up.
Vi is closer to Siri and Google Now than other custom fitness trainers in that she can respond to commands — you can get those stat readouts, or let her know that you’re just too tired to continue. But, chances are she’ll know you’re spent before you do — using all those sensors, she’ll be able to figure out that you’ve slowed down enough to where you probably need to start resting up. Once you do get enough rest, Vi will be on you to get back out there. Even if you don’t have the earbuds on, Vi will be able to text you to let you know what she has planned for your next workout, and when you need to do it. And no, rain won’t be an excuse — Vi will be all too happy to plan some indoor activities to keep you going.
When Vi launched as a Kickstarter project last year, it was planned around running only. But, a $100,000 goal turned into well over $1.6 million, so LifeBeam was able to make Vi even better. In the time between the Kickstarter and now, Vi has planned cycling features for later this year, and added Google Fit, Apple HealthKit, and Strava integration (the latter is only for iOS, but should come to Android soon).
Oh, and they’re headphones! And good ones! LifeBeam partnered with Harman/Kardon on the sound, and while there’s no internal storage for music, they can play music from your stored files or from Spotify.
Despite having all those features, the Vi headphones can last for up to eight hours on one charge, guaranteeing they can make it through multiple runs. That makes Vi a pretty solid workout companion for the long haul — if you want to move past basic fitness tracking and into training for a 10K, half marathon, or marathon, Vi might just be the thing do get you on the right track. Now that they’ve shipped out to backers, LifeBeam is now ready for Vi’s retail debut. Vi is available now directly from LifeBeam for $250, and will be available online on Best Buy and Amazon later this month. The team plans to have Vi in stores sometime this summer.
UPDATE 04/18/2017: An earlier version of this post suggested the Vi headphones currently have cycling features. Those features are in development, and are on track to be ready later this year. The post has been amended, and we regret the error.