Gear Shed

Apple’s Brave New Fitness World

The computer company plans to revolutionize how we work out, and it has the hardware (or at least the patents) to prove it.

Apple is getting into the fitness game in a big way.     Photo: John Mitchell/Flickr

If you believe the rumors, Apple plans to enter the health and fitness world later this year with its Healthbook app. But what other hardware is the company developing?   

To answer this question, we went digging through the patents Apple has filed over the last few years. Right now, these concepts aren’t much more than rudimentary sketches, but if even half of them make it to market, they could change the way we work out.    

Smart Bike

The concept for an Apple Smart Bike is quite specific and fairly recent. Filed last summer, the patent shows what looks like an iPod attached to handlebars and sensors that would track your cadence, GPS location, speed, and other metrics. A map would show your location and give you options on the best path to take. 

Smart Shoes

Another patent, filed in 2011, looks similar to the Adidas miCoach system. A sensor embedded in a shoe sole tracks movements and counts steps. An alarm lets you know if your sole should be replaced. 

Virtual Sports Network

Many gadgets, such as the Kensington Proximo, already exist to help you keep track of lost items: you get an alert if the item moves out of range. Apple has patented an idea that would plug each item into a system. Take your average gym class. Everything—from the ball to everyone’s sneakers—would have sensors to communicate with each other. An app on an iPad would tell the coach if all players have the right gear for the session.     

Smart Earbuds

You probably already wear earbuds during a workout. But we bet they don’t track your perspiration, heart rate, and body temperature. This February 2014 patent spells out how the earbuds could be used for fitness tracking. The futuristic gadget might even let you adjust your music with head gestures. 

Gear Connectors 

Apple’s late-2013 invention highlights a small magnet that connects cords or other pieces of gear. (It’s similar to the current MagSafe power connector on a Mac laptop.) As you move a cord closer to the port, the magnet snaps into place, but when you pull the connector, it easily unplugs. The idea could work for everything from ski boots to tent poles to the new laceless boots. 

Group Sport Tracking

The formally titled “System for Facilitating Group Activities” patent sounds a bit dull. In reality, it’s almost too futuristic. All your workout buddies would have sensors that could connect together as a system. This would let a coach monitor everyone’s performance, see who’s running faster or slower, and even create plays or workout programs that take advantage of the unique group dynamics. The sensor might also provide audio or video cues to participants.

Competitor Network

If this technology goes mainstream, you could challenge someone to a race—possibly based on their current location. Sensors would automatically track both runners’ progress, flagging the winner across a virtual finish line.

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