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Startups

AI startup DevUnlimit gamifies home fitness to offer stress-free exercise

Users can work out in groups in a virtual space or even use virtual avatars

Jul 27, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

DevUnlimit CEO Andy Gyumin Jeong speaking at D.CAMP's D-day event.
DevUnlimit CEO Andy Gyumin Jeong speaking at D.CAMP's D-day event.

South Korea-based fitness content startup DevUnlimit Inc. has developed an artificial intelligence-based fitness platform that gamifies exercise routines to offer a stress-free workout environment. 

The company's fitness content platform, Sparky, allows users to select workout videos based on their preferred fitness coach or routines such as K-pop dance and Zumba.

The platform uses motion capture technology to analyze users' movements through the webcam, correcting postures and movements throughout the routine and notifying users how many calories have been burned.

This may seem similar to other AI home fitness services, but what makes Sparky special is the gamification aspect. Sparky is the first AI-based home fitness platform to gamify workout routines by providing scores and global rankings. It also offers multiplayer workout sessions, enhancing the user experience as users can exercise virtually with friends to create a sense of community.

"I wanted to create a company that would better the lives of people -- a service where people could improve their physical and mental well-being without worrying about money," said Andy Gyumin Jeong, a former engineer who founded DevUnlimit in 2017.

Sparky is the world's first AI-based home fitness platform that gamifies exercise routines.
Sparky is the world's first AI-based home fitness platform that gamifies exercise routines.

GAMIFYING EXERCISE AND REMOVING STRESS

According to Jeong, there were already many AI health applications on the market, but not many people actually used them.

“It’s because it wasn't fun for the users. On YouTube, people can choose from a wide selection of entertaining workout routines, but the AI healthcare apps didn’t offer as much content which appeared to be the issue,” said Jeong.

Jeong focused on gamifying workout routines to provide an immersive experience for the users as he noted that while many people felt the need to exercise, they would often get stressed because they thought of it as a chore.

"Our goal was to remove that stress factor, making home fitness fun and at the same time effective," said Jeong, explaining that the retention rate for interactive fitness content was much higher than non-interactive content.

Before launching Sparky, the company committed to a reference project to test the market. DevUnlimit fused its AI-based home training technology with K-pop dance routines, leading to the creation of the Choom Choom beta service where users exercise by following popular K-pop dance moves and the AI technology assesses their movements to provide scores -- similar to the dance video game, Just Dance.

The service became a huge hit and DevUnlimit was invited to showcase the Chooom Choom service at the world's largest Korean culture convention, KCON, in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Bangkok in 2019.

The following year, DevUnlimit debuted Sparky at CES 2020 in Las Vegas. 

DevUnlimit unveils the Choom Choom service in Tokyo during KCON 2019.
DevUnlimit unveils the Choom Choom service in Tokyo during KCON 2019.

COOPERATION RATHER THAN DISRUPTION

CEO Jeong says that the startup focused on cooperation rather than market disruption from the beginning.

"We didn't want to replace trainers with AI trainers. Instead of disrupting the market, we wanted to cooperate and co-exist with existing fitness players," said Jeong, explaining that they work with fitness coaches, influencers and creators to develop content for the platform.

Sparky offers opportunities for creators as they can upload workout content on the platform and make a profit via advertisements and subscriptions. Currently, the platform offers mostly cardio routines, but it is set to expand to include golf, weightlifting and even soccer.

The AI home fitness startup is also expected to gain traction from the metaverse boom as it plans to launch a virtual avatar store -- a rising theme for the metaverse trend and a segment that is likely to draw the attention of millennials and Gen Zers.

"We're going to offer users the creative freedom to reinvent themselves in the virtual workout space," said Jeong.

EYEING US EXPANSION IN 2022 

Users don't need to pay to exercise on Sparky. The company's revenue model is based on video advertisements and selling virtual goods. According to Jeong, video ads are provided during workout breaks, which prevents interrupting exercise routines.

This year, the company's roadmap includes improving its AI technology to boost the platform's accuracy and expanding its content portfolio. DevUnlimit is also preparing to kick off marketing activities in the US next year.

So far, the company has raised seed funding and plans to conduct a Series A funding round at the end of next year.

By Danbee Lee

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