Real-time voice coaching as you run? Our writer puts the world’s first A.I. earphones to the test.
There’s no doubt that fitness gadgets are getting smarter by the day. On top of monitoring step count and heart rate, activity trackers can now dive deep into your health stats and even give you a detailed sleep report.
Earphones aren’t left out of the party either. They no longer just provide music to accompany you on runs. Besides going wireless to free you from a tangled mess, Soul Electronics went a step further to offer real-time voice coaching in the Run Free Pro Bio earphones ($249.90).
Bad running form is one of the reasons why running feels more tiring for some of us. And this pair of earphones is designed to monitor your running form – from step length to body symmetry – and give you live feedback like a coach would. This way, you should be able to make necessary adjustments – like bringing your shoulders back to correct your posture – and ultimately run further or faster with less effort.
As someone who enjoys the occasional therapeutic run at the end of a long day, I was eager to give these earphones a try as I was curious to find out how bad (or perfect) my running form was. Also, I wanted to learn how it can be improved to make this cardio option more enjoyable.
After I popped the Run Free Pro Bio earphones on, the first thing I had to do was download the app, connect it via Bluetooth, provide basic stats like my height and weight, and calibrate it by looking forward while standing completely still.
As the accompanying Soul Fit app lacked further tutorials after the set-up guide, it took me a considerable amount of readjusting as I struggled to get my settings right. I made the mistake of not selecting ‘indoor’ before I started my run on the treadmill. Neither did I pick the right cadence, which resulted in mismatching feedback. The sound of my music, however, was crystal clear and the earphones had a snug and secure fit.
After getting that sorted and setting the sensitivity levels to ‘high’, the real-time voice coaching started flowing in. The live feedback I received revolved around one thing: tilting my head down. As I corrected my head angle accordingly, the A.I. proved to be super responsive and immediately acknowledged my adjustments. Plus, it informed and encouraged me when I maintained good running form. Runners who gain their momentum from music, might find this live feedback rather interruptive while you’re running hard to your favourite tunes.
Knowing that the A.I. was “watching” my every move, I found myself being extra cautious of my posture, arm swings and keeping my body as symmetrical as possible. It also provided an audio report of distance covered, average pace and current time after every kilometre, which would be very useful for anyone training for a specific pace timing.
I was amazed by the wide range of stats available in my post-run report, which was automatically logged in my history – taking away the hassle of recording it manually in my Notes app. Apart from charting basics such as cadence, calories burned and step count, it included detailed feedback on my running form, showing how much energy I wasted bouncing up and down, if I made unnecessary side movements, and the force I exerted on each leg- complete with a clear explanation on what each term means and tips on how to improve.
While the app wasn’t as seamless as hoped, the Run Free Pro Bio earphones ($249.90) were comfortable on, lightweight and sweat-resistant thanks to the rubber material. Whether you’re a new runner aiming to perfect your running form or a competitive runner training for a marathon, these earphones will benefit you in one way or another – that is if you are willing to shell out the money for it.