The new year has come, and with it comes a new set of New Year’s resolutions. For many, losing weight and getting into better shape is tops on the list. In a not-too-uncommon story, some will head to the store and buy a spinning bike to use at home. The idea is a good one: Sit on the bike for 30 minutes every day while watching the news or your favorite show. Kill two birds in one stone, as they say. Three weeks from now, many of these recently new spinning bikes will be turned into a clothes hangers and guilt generators—a visual representation of a failed new years resolution.
After all, only the most dedicated actively use their equipment regularly. And one of the most common reasons for this is because many find that spinning bikes aren’t very engaging or interesting.
A shift in the market
Activetainment, a Norwegian startup is hoping to change this. At CES last week they introduced their product, ebove; the next generation exercise equipment and experience that combines fitness, gaming and virtual reality into a piece of equipment that will encourage users to keep coming back.
Their first product is an exercise bike that fully responds to animated virtual terrains on a screen in front of you. Through the screen of your choosing, users can ride both real tracks (think Tour de France stages or mountain bike tracks) and fantasy tracks, with literally just your imagination setting the limits. The bike responds to inclines and declines and side-to-side movement by pitching the bike and adjusting the resistance automatically.
Furthermore, ebove bikes sync together, so virtual races can be held on pre-determined terrains where you can exercise or compete with other people from anywhere in the world. “It’s all about making fitness fun, and we believe that is achieved by combining exercise with gaming.”
“Some call it the next generation, we say it’s the best thing since the bike itself,” says Activetainment’s Sondre Fossum, Head of Product Development. “When the bike is connected to Oculus Rift Virtual Reality, it's an insane experience! We have adult men in suits sitting on the bike screaming.
“The great thing is that it creates feelings in people, you get the adrenaline pump going. That’s something we are very proud of. We deliver an experience.”
Activetainment is planning a series of products under the ebove brand, including exercise bikes, treadmills and rowing machines, with the exercise bike being the flagship, go-to-market product.
Half gaming and half training, ebove combines technologies found in leading products and industries today. It’s this combination that makes Ebove the best of both worlds, catering to gamers and athletes alike.
The exercise bike will include a touchscreen that has several different trails pre-installed, catering to mountain bikers and road cyclists. Users can also get access to the ebove online interface to interact with the community, view statistics, meet and compete with training buddies and find a library of downloadable trails.
“We say it is the most engaging, entertaining and realistic exercise experience in the world and we’re bringing the outdoor inside,” concludes Sondre.
From passionate bikers and skiers to gamers, developers and virtual reality enthusiasts, Activetainment consists of people from different backgrounds. Inventor and entrepreneur Ziad Badarneh founded the company in 2012, and the idea came as a result of a trade fair show 10 years earlier where he saw how little innovation that existed in the fitness industry.
“He was not impressed of what he found on the market,” says Jan Arild Svello, Head of Business Development.
When introduced to Ziad earlier in 2012, the guys immediately saw potential in the idea. “We kept knocking on Ziads door until he agreed to let us help him move the idea forward,” said Sondre. “We spent the summer on finn.no to gather furniture and equipment to establish an office. It’s amazing what people give away for free”.
Two years later, and after a couple of office moves, Activetainment is a small company with 7 employees located in the heart of Oslo.
“One of the biggest challenges over these two years has been finding the right people and building a solid team. But you learn from every step you take and today we are an international company, with people from 4 different countries. We see that hiring people from different backgrounds and cultures only strengthens the company,” added Jan Arild.
“We are aiming to release the product within the next 6 – 12 months, and we will open up for pre-orders as soon as possible. We have studied and been inspired by Tesla, and we’re hoping to go down the same path.
“In five years our goal is to be the biggest player in the new indoor exercise equipment market. We are expecting more and more competitors to hop on the train in this market. It’s like the smart phone, once you have tried it, you never go back”.
In addition to the recent CES launch, they are also doing a slow relocation to Silicon Valley, joining the Nordic Innovation House in Palo Alto. “In the beginning, it will be a bit back and forth between Norway and Silicon Valley, but our goal is to move most of the company there but keep key development back in Norway,” said Jan Arild.
“It’s a very different culture in Silicon Valley. People are so helpful and willing to offer their advice and expertise, a pay it forward culture. In Norway, as soon as you start discussing business with someone, the meter is turned on,” added Sondre.
“We are creating all our software (tracks) in Unity, a game engine platform which has over 10 million developers. Our aim is to release an open SDK for all people and developers out there to make their own tracks. By integrating a similar approach like the “appstore model”, users can then buy and sell tracks from each other. Just imagine the possibilities in this!” concluded a smiling Sondre.