As any boxer will tell you, jumping rope is one of the most efficient cardio workouts, one that hasn't changed much since it was invented. Until now. Jumping rope is now a dynamic interactive mobile experience. I remember it was... a rope.
Behold the Smart Rope. It sounds a little silly at first, but let me explain. The LED-laced, sensor-laden jump rope puts a twist on fitness-tracking. Like a wearable, it tracks your movements — jumps, to be specific — and syncs up with a smartphone app that lets you analyse your stats. Smart Rope even displays those stats in front of your very eyes while you're working out using LEDs embedded in the rope.
Unlike a wearable, though, Smart Rope is actually a piece of exercise equipment. It's the shiniest jump rope I've ever seen.
Smart Rope is the first product from Tangram, a Seoul-based design firm with a background in user experience. The company gave us an exclusive look at a prototype ahead of its Wednesday morning Kickstarter launch.
To be honest, I didn't totally believe the Tron-inspired promise of LED-lit stats floating in front of my face while I worked out. But Smart Rope delivered. When I tested the product at home, it took a few jumps for me to get into the rhythm, and when I did, the mid-air display felt like magic.
The jump rope displayed my jump count so that I didn't have to keep track, and it actually helped me stay focused. The device uses a collection of magnets in the handle to register a full rotation, so you can't cheat either.
That said, it was the first prototype to leave Tangram's offices, so not all of the features were finished. The smartphone app, for instance, is still in development. When finished it will design interval training workouts based on your use your body mass index (BMI) and jump rope abilities. The app will also use your BMI to calculate the number of calories you're burning, a stat that can also be displayed while you jump by the LEDs embedded in the rope. Eventually, the flashy display and feature-rich app are supposed to encourage you to exercise more efficiently and more frequently.
But will a smart jump rope really make me workout more? And do I need another Bluetooth-enabled gadget to be a happier human? In a world where so many companies are trying so hard to make "smart" products, it's easy to fixate on a gadget's lengthy list of features and lose sight of its real purpose.
Smart Rope tows the line well, though. Even without the ability to use the app, I had a blast jumping rope in my living room and zoning out to that zany LED light show. The design of Smart Rope's chrome handles also made for buttery smooth revolutions, so the experience was a step up from the old boxer jump rope my dad gave me for my birthday a couple years ago. Meanwhile, I'm not really into the fitness tracker trend, but I'm definitely intrigued by the idea of exercise equipment that makes my workouts more efficient and keeps me better informed.
The Smart Rope vision certainly is idealistic vision of exercise, and Tangram says its long-term mission is to "build out a robust platform that connects to a variety of active fitness wearables and provides a holistic view of health and wellness." Imagine a set of dumb bells that not only counted your reps for you but also corrected your form. This is just one of the concepts the firm is considering.
For now, you can secure a Smart Rope of your own by backing the project on Kickstarter. One Smart Rope will set you back $US60 and for another $US10 you can get handle grips with it. That's less than the price of a good pair of running shoes, and I can say from experience that jumping rope is a lot more fun than running. Especially in this weather.
Pictures: Michael Hession, Tangram