Fitness Gets Smart With Tonal

Tue, Apr 9, 2019 - 8:30am

Aly Orady, founder of Tonal, recently spoke with Jim Puplava about his company and how he's revolutionizing at-home fitness.

Orady began his career in technology working for Hewlett Packard in the company’s supercomputing lab. By the time he turned 35 his health was in complete disarray.

“By that point I had sleep apnea,” Orady said. “I had type-two diabetes. My doctor was constantly reminding me that things were heading in the wrong direction. One day I just realized that I had to do something about this.”

He quit his job and dedicated himself to leading a healthier lifestyle, which eventually led him to take a new approach to fitness. Because of his background in engineering and technology, he decided to build a device that would shrink a gym down to a small package and make it smarter at the same time.

The result was Tonal, a 42-inch tall by roughly 20-inch wide display with exercise equipment built into it, in the form of movable arms and cables that allow users to perform a wide variety of exercises on the machine.

“For me, it was really about trying to get the equipment into my home,” Orady said. “I wanted to shrink it down. I also wanted to be able to push myself a little bit harder, always getting those last few reps in, which actually allow you to build muscle more quickly and see faster results.”

To begin, the machine walks users through a series of physical assessments to make recommendations and plan a workout regimen. Tonal helps its users push themselves and is designed to monitor effort and adjust resistance to allow users to finish reps without a spotter. Tonal uses electricity instead of weights to create resistance. The AI software built into the machine allows it to make dynamic adjustments as it monitors users’ output, form and other factors.

“Once you've created a weightlifting machine that runs on electricity, you can computerize it, you can digitize it, and you can build in AI,” Orady said. “You can build in algorithms, detect when you're struggling and dial the weight down so you can push yourself a little bit harder, even mid-rep. You really have the equivalent of a personal trainer and an entire gym in something about the size of the flat-screen TV mounted on your wall.”

Tonal’s AI also makes weight recommendations and offers instructional information in the form of on-screen trainers demonstrating proper technique. The company produces in-house video content featuring eight different coaches who make videos exclusively for the machine with plans to expand offerings in the future.

Right now, Tonal’s application and content focuses on strength training, but the company plans to add new features and types of training. The company’s also developing an app to provide statistics and feedback for users.

“We’re trying our very best to give everyone the tools that they need to be their healthiest and strongest selves in the comfort and convenience of their home, no matter what their goals are,” Orady said. “We are really thinking about all of the different ways that a personal trainer helps you get healthy. It's really the benchmark that we use. Are we really like a personal trainer? That’s what we're working toward. We want to add more content, more coaches, more programming, more goals, more personalization and more variety. These are the things that we live and breathe every day.”

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