4 Unconventional Innovations in Fitness Products
posted ago by baron
When dealing with fitness devices, user conditioning will always be the first priority, which makes it easy for a product designer to suffer from tunnelvision. You may feel that a better ab machine must provide a better ab workout, or that a better pull-up bar must maximize strength training, making it seem like you need to be an expert on fitness and physiology to design an effective product. However, with the fitness industry poised to exceed $10 billion in annual revenue, designers have more than enough space to play, and innovation doesn’t have to be constrained to workout efficiency alone.
Below, we’ve listed a few interesting ways that product designers are evolving the industry, whether they’re focused on a better workout, a more user-friendly design, or a new perspective on what it means to exercise in the first place. If you’ve never worked on a fitness product before, you may be surprised at how many you might have thought of yourself.
The Compact Workout
While some consumers are graced with a basement or garage where they can store their fitness gear, many others live in much tighter spaces, where sizable exercise products may fear to tread. After all, even a simple set of dumbbells can take up a surprising amount of square footage. This conundrum has inspired a number of compact, ultra-efficient fitness products, which grant users access to the functions of otherwise bulky equipment without the lost space. The Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells (above) are a great example of this trend, providing the variable resistance of a large set of weights in a single, adjustable dumbbell. The PullUp Revolution and Speed Ring concept are two more products in this category, providing the functionality of an assisted pull-up machine and punching bag while being small enough to fit in a backpack. Even the most space-starved New Yorker can find room for that.
While some designers strive to make exercise equipment easier to hide, others are taking this concept a step further by designing products that don’t have to hide in the first place, blending seamlessly with the rest of your parlor or bedroom. While most fitness gear has a rather distinctive aesthetic, these individuals have crafted products with a much more versatile look, allowing them to be treated as simple furniture, or even decor. The Panorama fitness carpet (above) is a great example of this trend: it can serve as living room furniture for most of the day, then transform to enable a wide variety of workouts, from yoga to strength training. Alex Undall’s Crystal Dumbbells and the Kinesis Personal are two products that pursue a similar role, providing users with effective workout equipment that can be stored in plain sight. While a simple aesthetic change might not be enough to merit a new Quirky product, this concept of visual integration is worth keeping in mind when designing any product, fitness or otherwise.
A Fresh Take on a Classic
In most cases, basing your brainstorm on an existing product tends to stifle innovation, but if you’re willing to think outside the box, the reinvention of a classic concept can make for an exceptionally compelling product. When docked in its special cradle, the OneBike (above) serves as a normal stationary bike, but designers Byoung-soo Choi & Jun-kyeong Kim have envisioned a second use that is far more exciting. The bike is designed to store the energy generated during a workout, then transform into a fully mobile electric bicycle, repurposing the stored energy for travel. Two other stationary bikes that provide unique (if less outlandish) functions are Healthy Electricity and Revolve, which not only provide a cool new aesthetic for the product type, but can charge your electronics or connect to a mobile device, respectively. By comparison, the bike in your basement is beyond old news.
New Perspectives on Fitness
There are many forms of innovation, but the most dramatic is the kind that completely changes how a consumer looks at a product or activity. Since physical activity is not limited to intentional exercise, the fitness world is especially ripe for this kind of upheaval. While not exactly a product, the City Peaks Challenge exemplifies this concept perfectly: crafted by London design studio Digits, this novel game uses RFID tags to track players as they climb the stairs in their office buildings, comparing the distance climbed to the heights of famous mountains (collectively, the Digits staff have trekked up 90% of Everest). Players can compare their progress with that of their friends, encouraging them to take the stairs more often as they make their way up various peaks. In essence, it encourages users to incorporate a workout routine into their everyday routine, removing the need for a distinct exercise device at all. The Fitness@Work (love it or hate it) is an office chair that serves much the same purpose, integrating a variety of exercises into an everyday work station. While opinions may differ on the effectiveness of these exercise methods, it’s doubtful that you’ve seen anything remotely like them.
Getting pumped to design a fitness product of your own? Stop by the special Fitness Edition of our Feedback Friday broadcast, and you may learn a thing or two! Just head to the Quirky Live page this Friday at 3pm EST, and join the discussion.