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Peloton’s latest move suggests a possible smartwatch



Illustration for the article entitled Peloton's last move on a possible smartwatch

Photo: Scott Heins / Stringer (Getty Images)

The peloton had many ups and downs and downturns the last year, but it recently intercepted an interesting mix of smaller technology companies. This latest acquisition round seems to suggest that the company can think of its own portable device – or at least add some interesting AI-powered features to its existing products.

Recent reports from Bloomberg and Wareable say that Peloton bought Aiqudo, Atlas Wearables and Otari in late 2020. Aiqudo is an AI startup that specializes in helping developers add digital assistants to apps and devices. Otari has made one interactive exercise mat complete with own screen. Otari’s math also includes a form of AI coaching to correct form and count representatives. Finally, Atlas makes wearables portable sensors that focus on Record accurate workouts that involve weights and bodyweight movements – something that no smartwatch has really figured out how to do well.

In particular, the Atlas Wearables acquisition is remarkable. The company has built up a huge database of exercises, based on actual movements by personal trainers from a wide range of activity types such as HIIT, Crossfit, Bootcamp, strength training, etc. Right now, while many trackers and smartwatches offer strength training or weight registration, they are awful at recording how many reps of what exercise you have done. For some, like the Apple Watch, these activities only record your heart rate and duration, with calorie burn calculated based on a combination of other calculations. This is one of the biggest holes in exercise tracking right now, as most available portable devices are more suitable for tracking cardio- or recovery-based activities and calculations.

If you put it all together, it looks very much like the Peloton can lay the foundation for expand hardware to include better automatic training detection, digital assistants, and, possibly AI form coaching. That’s a compelling thought when you consider Peloton’s current ecosystem. The bikes and treadmills include large screens – and its newer bike and treadmill both have rotating screens so you can more easily switch from cycling / running to other types of exercise. In addition, Peloton also sells its own heart rates and offers integration with the Apple Watch. Finally, the company rolled out a feature called Stacked Classes, which allows you to more easily create a “training playlist.” As in, you can plan a 30-minute bike ride, followed by a 20-minute strength session and a 10-minute chill. Adding a smartwatch-like gadget (or on-screen AI detection) that can automatically detect you by switching from one activity to the next or provide live feedback on the form would be a huge accomplishment.

More thought-provoking: The peloton also fell $ 420 million to buy Precor, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of commercial fitness equipment, in December. At the time, it seemed that the move was more to support Peloton’s supply chain and address them annoying, months long delays which has frustrated many new buyers. In addition to acquiring all of Precor’s manufacturing facilities in the United States, the agreement also included the company’s 100 members research and development team. This will theoretically give Peloton the opportunity to produce new hardware on its own.

We do not know what will come out of all these acquisitions for a while. And while the Peloton itself is quite bullish about the growth following the pandemic, there is the looming possibility that the infamous delay and cabin fever will result in people flocking back to the gyms when the lock is over. Nevertheless, all these acquisitions seem to point to a future where the Peloton will only become more powerful and influential in the connected training world – no less.


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