fitness

This fitness wearable tells you how to improve

February 27, 2014: 12:00 PM ET

Instead of just giving you a bunch of numbers, the creators of Moov want to use data to help you become a better runner, biker or swimmer.

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FORTUNE -- Wearable fitness devices seem to be everywhere. From Nike's FuelBand to Jawbone's Up to the Fitbit Flex and now Samsung's new Gear Fit, it feels like everyone is slapping one on their wrists with the hopes of changing their workout habits for the better.

Will tracking all this data help you improve your health? The answer has been mostly predicated on the notion that more activity equals better fitness. Most of the wearables on the market right now are fancy pedometers: They tell you how many steps you've taken throughout the day and let you know once you've reached a predetermined goal. Some products monitor your sleep patterns. Others keep tabs on your heart rate. But what does taking 10,000 steps or running for 36 minutes actually mean? What are you supposed to do with all that information?

Moov, a fitness wearable that was announced Wednesday afternoon along with a $40,000 crowd-funding campaign, seeks to answer these questions.

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Meng Li, a former mobile product designer for Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, created Moov with two others out of frustration with competing products. She enjoyed tracking her workouts, but wanted to get more insight into how she could actually improve her running and boxing. Her device uses 3-D sensors and incorporates sports science -- pre-existing research from Harvard and Stanford universities as well as the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, plus data collected from athletes and trainers by Li herself -- to sense when your running stride is less than optimal.

The device can also tell if your hips are too high when you assume a plank position, if you're not jabbing fast enough when you box and if you need to lengthen your stroke when you swim. Moov then gives you real-time audio and visual instruction -- think of it as a Siri for your workout -- on how to get better.

"You don't even need to pay attention to the data," Li said. "With the other products, it was depressing at the end of the day to see that I did not reach my goal, but [it was] not telling me what to do to improve."

The product serves as  a replacement for a costly personal trainer, according to co-creator (and former Apple engineer) Nikola Hu. Moov includes video workouts led by professional athletes and trainers that you can, in the example of cardio boxing, punch along with. Moov will track your progress in real time and recognize that you may not be punching in the best way. The video instructor will then suggest how to improve. If you want to offer Moov a long-term goal, such as training for a half marathon or burning more calories per day, the device will suggest workouts to help you get there.

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This is not unlike using an Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii at home. But the Moov does not rely on cameras or additional hardware to track your movements, allowing you to work out in a much smaller space, such as an office, Li said. "If your workout is 15 minutes, you don't want to bother with setting something up," she said. "But with the Moov, you can just put it on your desk and do it whenever you want."

Moov is not the only wearable product on the market with 3-D sensors. The Atlas wearable, for example, can tell the difference between a bicep curl, a push-up and a deadlift and will track workouts accordingly. But the Atlas, which has a large display, is bulkier than the Oreo-sized Moov. Atlas also does not feature the video instruction applications that Hu and Li are betting will make their product more attractive to people who need more motivation to workout.

Moov is scheduled  to begin shipping  this summer. Li and Hu would not disclose how much funding the company has raised, but acknowledged that they were not self-funding the operation. Moov will eventually retail for $120, but purchases made during the crowd-funding campaign will only be $59. The wearable will only be compatible with Apple iOS devices at launch; Google Android support will be available in early fall, Hu said.

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Li and Hu do not deny that there is already plenty of competition in the saturated wearable market. But after eight years of working with sensor technology, the founders are convinced that their product is distinctive enough to gain and maintain market share.

Even if competitors try to replicate the Moov. "It's really, really difficult to make a product like we did," Hu said. "I'd like to see more people try."

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