Black Box VR has been declared Best Startup of CES 2018 for its resistance-based virtual reality fitness experience.
The award was presented in Las Vegas by Engadget, the Official Awards Partner of the International Consumer Electronics Show, hand-selected by their judges from an estimated total of over 4,500 exhibitors at the conference. The team had also opened the show as an official 2018 CES Innovation Award Honouree, and was present at the Sands Expo Hall debuting their system to the public for the first time.
With plans to open their first boutique gym in San Francisco later in 2018, the Black Box VR studio has developed the world’s first fully automated cable resistance machine that integrates virtual reality hardware and original virtual eSport software powered by HTC Vive. Black Box VR users get an intense, time-dilated, custom workout while immersed in challenging, gamified and competitive virtual reality fitness experiences that redefine eSports into physically active vSports.
“We couldn’t be more proud to receive such a prestigious honor from the International Consumer Electronics Show and their official partners at Engadget,” said Ryan DeLuca, CEO and Co-Founder. “The worlds of fitness and immersive VR are finally coming together to help people reach their goals. This award helps us bring awareness to this revolutionary technology.” Preston Lewis, Co-Founder and CCO added, “Over the past 18 months we’ve put in an enormous amount of work to strategically combine science-backed fitness programs with the addictive qualities of gaming, immersive technologies, and innovative hardware to transform lives for the better. This award is a testament to the hard work put forth by our talented, passionate, and multi-faceted team, and we couldn’t be more thankful for this amazing recognition.”
In their coverage of the show, Engadget stated, “Black Box has big plans to change the fitness industry AND gaming while they’re at it.” Black Box VR was also nominated for Best Digital Health and Fitness Product, Best Sports Tech, and People’s Choice. Upon their decision to award Black Box VR as the winner of Best Startup, Engadget’s Senior Reporter Jess Conditt said, “Black Box VR is building the gym of the future. Using the HTC Vive, motion-tracking controllers and specially designed workout equipment, Black Box turns exercise into a video game. The plan is to set up a boutique gym in San Francisco this year, where members can strap into a game, work out and attempt to land on the local leader-boards. This is just the beginning of the VR fitness market.”
Founded by fitness fanatics Ryan DeLuca and Preston Lewis, the Black Box VR team spent years building Bodybuilding.com into the largest online supplement retailer in the world with nearly $500m in annual sales. With the collaboration of many talented individuals, they created some of the world’s most recognized supplement brands, developed chart-topping fitness mobile applications, were honored for their award-winning health and fitness campaigns, and created the world’s largest online fitness social network with over 3m members while always holding true to the mission of changing people’s lives.
In 2016 Preston and Ryan decided to start their new venture, Black Box VR, with a mission to disrupt the fitness industry once again by creating innovative products and experiences that create lasting change in people’s lives. After trying virtual reality for the first time, Ryan and Preston knew they were experiencing a magically immersive technology that, if paired with resistance training, gaming principles and high intensity cardio, will be the winning combination for people trying to reach their health & fitness goals. Black Box VR is redefining fitness as we know it.
Smart home arrives in SA
The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.
The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.
The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.
The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.
The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.
My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.
Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.
Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?
These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.
Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.
Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.
Matrics must prepare for AI
By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.
Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.
With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.
Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.
Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist.
So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?
For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.
In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.
This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.
In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.
As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.
This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.
The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.