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How ASICS built an app that turns every run into a rhythm

Running is associated with improved health and life expectancy. Japanese shoemaker ASICS wants to make it social. Here is how.

Asics Run Mixer app main

Technology is weaving into every fabric of our life. One area where it could have its biggest impact yet is health and fitness. Apple CEO Tim Cook once famously said that the company’s greatest contribution will be “about health”. With the pandemic, one really cannot understate the importance of fitness and it’s direct impact on a healthy lifestyle. We all have a very different definition for staying fit. For me, it involves feeling healthy and prepared to take on any challenge at any time. Also Read - Amazfit Bip S Lite smartwatch review: Good fitness tracker under Rs 5,000

With a fit mental state, I do engage in activities like running and cycling to stay fit. With the lock down, I realized how not being able to engage in these activities can impact you. While this situation is constantly evolving, tech companies are doing a lot to help people continue their fitness regime at home. However, there is a lot being done by shoe makers at the same time. Shoe is the most important thing to you whenever you go out for a run. While Nike, Adidas are doing their best to improve your running, ASICS is taking a different approach to this improvement. Also Read - Oppo Watch with Google's WearOS launched in India: Price, features, offers, specifications

The Japanese company is improving and introducing new sports shoes that aim to elevate your running. However, it went a step further to turn running into a social experience. There is a good chance that you are still able to run in your vicinity. However, you might be seeing fewer people out and about because of the pandemic. As a result, there is a possibility that your run does not involve any kind of social connection. In order to bring that social element back to the forefront, ASICS designed an app that turns the rhythm of your run into a track in real-time. Also Read - Huawei Watch GT 2 vs Watch GT 2e: How to choose the right smartwatch?

ASICS Run Mixer: An app that turns every run into a rhythm

Called ASICS Run Mixer, this app works with running shoes from any major brand but works the best with Novablast range from ASICS. Before we explore the idea behind this application, I think this app removes the stigma around running being for only a small set of people or those who are wealthy. By making an app compatible with most running shoes out there, the company is trying to make the service available to a wider audience. The Novablast itself is the bounciest shoe yet from the company but the app is not limited to this shoe. Think of it like a companion app to the shoe where both the shoe and the app are not directly dependent on each other.

For any runner, there is a need for motivation. That motivation can come from a fellow runner or a trainer or from upbeat music through earbuds. I must admit running can seem lonely and drain all of your energy at times but companies like ASICS are finding new ways to keep people stay competitive and on their toes. ASICS says the idea behind this app came when they were exploring ways for new or fun-runners to experience running. It figured out that running can be made engaging by connecting music and running music through the shoes worn by the runner.

This is the eureka moment that designers were looking for at ASICS. “Because especially for the fun-runners, rhythm is as important an element in their running, as in life,” a spokesperson for ASICS told me, while explaining the idea behind this app. Once it found the connection, the company got to work and immediately figured out that most runners use their smartphones to beam music to their ears. It says that these runners consider it “important for them to listen to music when they run.” So, it got to work in collaboration with London-based DJ and composer Elkka. The idea originated as a challenge to build an app that can turn any run into a rhythm.

A collaboration between engineers, DJ and designers

In a behind-the-scenes video, one can see Elkka say that if every run produces different rhythm, then everyone can be a composer. In order to make this possible, engineers, developers and composers first built a proprietary engine with two built-in parameters to communicate with the data provided by the device. The first parameter is cadence, which is converting step count into beats per minute. The second parameter is elevation obtained from GPS data of your smart device. “The engine starts with a faint synth on top of a more pronounced beat, based on the parameters detected, and then will grow to a multi-instrumental soundtrack supported with baselines and fillers,” the spokesperson told me.

This serves as the base line for the rhythm being generated from your running data. “As parameters change, the app will trigger itself to explore alternatives within the melodic themes creating a bespoke track relating to how the runner is running.” The company clarified that the rhythm is currently generated on the basis of intensity, pace and cadence. ASICS plans to pull more data including location, weather and time of the day using app updates. The shoemaker is also very clear that it does not want the app to be overpowered by technology and wants to stay rooted in its plan of social running experience.

“The audience [using the app] is not interested in deep running data,” the company spokesperson said. “The app was more about connecting this audience and their current behavior (listening to music whilst they run) to enhance the joy of running by creating bespoke music based on their rhythm.” However, it does see a future where advanced sensors could be embedded within the shoe. With connected devices becoming normal, these companies will look for new ways to collect and process data and most importantly, use it to help runners improve their stride.

Smart tech and evolution of running into social experience

At CES 2020 earlier this year, ASICS showcased a smart shoe and is planning to launch before the end of this year. The company spokesperson further added that additional sensors will have a clear goal of turning running into a social experience. It says that these social interactions are much more important during the pandemic. “We have seen great increase since the start of the pandemic in people running and coming to our connected Runkeeper and ASICS Studio apps which we have made available to everyone and continue to build out ways our users can create more meaningful connections through running,” the spokesperson added.

For ASICS, this is just scratching the surface when it comes to pairing technology with its running shoe. Instead of going all guns blazing to connect the shoe with technology, the company is taking a slow approach. ASICS Run Mixer is a cool effort to show how your running can result in a fun experience. The rhythms generated can be shared with your friends and you can challenge them to produce something better. Remember, the app is shoe agnostic, so this allows everyone to socialize in the name of following their passion for running. If you are running with NOVABLAST, the experience is not only fluid but also bouncy.

It is not clear which approach will win in the long term. On one end, we have Nike which is weaving technology into its shoes at a faster pace. On the other end, we have ASICS with its calculated and nuanced approach towards bringing technology into its running shoes. While their approaches differ, both the companies are spearheading the idea of social running. At the end, running should not seem like a chore but rather another experience that elevates your lifestyle and an experience that brings people together.

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  • Published Date: July 28, 2020 6:52 PM IST

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