Artificial Intelligence

Dr. Paul Bedford, an authority on retention, attrition and the customer experience in the fitness industry, explains what AI technology could mean for the sector.

What is AI? ACCORDING to the English Oxford Dictionary, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence. Every two days we create as much data as we

did from the beginning of time until 2003; it’s a widely accessible commodity, but only one third is stored in traditional accounting format such as columns and rows. AI can unravel the other 70 per cent. It can quickly compute huge amounts of data from various formats and can even recognise images from their coding; it’s how facial recognition works, turning images into 0s and 1s and comparing them. Rather than a person running individual

searches, the system can work out how to find information, processing many more documents and research papers than a human could manage. For instance, IBM’s AI system

called Watson can help doctors evaluate patients’ symptoms and make a diagnosis. In a US study of cancer diagnosis cases, Watson was able to recommend treatment plans that matched suggestions from oncologists in 99 per cent of cases. Soon, if not already, AI will be able to create

individual personal exercise programmes without an instructor, simply using statistical analysis and the application of machine learning to data. Most people don’t need a PT with a masters in nutrition and anatomy; they want someone who’s there for them, supports them emotionally and remembers to check up on them, so the two should be able to work hand in hand as long as trainers give clients the personal experience they require.

Is AI already in play in the sector? Yes, CoachAi, a virtual coach using AI-driven behavioural psychology to help people make

exercise into a habit, is currently being piloted by three health club brands in Israel, including the country’s second largest chain, Space. It acts as a personal companion, interacting

via the members’ smart phones to facilitate the process of making exercise a regular part of their life. The actual training element is just activity. The behaviour they want is routine exercise. In essence it is simply used to get the member into the club, because if they don’t turn up it doesn’t matter what programme they’re doing! “The idea is based on behavioural science

research as well as insights into the psychology behind the habit building process,” says Shai Neiger, Israeli entrepreneur and CoachAi’s CEO. “We’ve identified the key psychological, social and logistical problems that cause dropouts and created an AI solution to address them. In addition, by applying insight from people that adhere to exercise or succeed with their goals, 29

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