Walking around CES 2017, you couldn’t help but notice them: booths with people lined up, waiting for a chance to try out the latest gadget. No, it wasn’t a VR headset; it was massage chairs. Bringing a chair that costs thousands of dollars to a show where people are on their feet all day is a pretty genius move. Dropping my 20-pound bag and kicking up my feet has become a bit of a tradition for me at shows, so when Bodyfriend reached out and asked if I wanted to take a load off mid-CES, I couldn’t say no — despite the somewhat dubious name.
Bodyfriend is a South Korean company that makes massage chairs, including the Rex-L, an $8,000 model. When you sit down, you grab hold of a wand that looks a bit like the handles you grab hold of on an elliptical machine to measure your heart rate. After 30 seconds, this will supposedly tell you your stress level. Mine, surprisingly, was moderate. If it had been higher, I would’ve been in for a more vigorous kneading.
You tuck your arms and legs inside indentations and sit back. The rollers start and go all the way down, past your lower back to your butt. It was a bit like sitting on a rolling pin at times. Meanwhile your arms and legs get squeezed, and there are rollers for your feet that feel heavenly after you’ve walked miles inside a convention center.
Despite its price, the Rex-L is an introductory model, compared to the Aventar. It looks like something Tony Stark would own and has enough tech to please him, too. Bodyfriend says it has 2,000 components that are carefully engineered.
When it comes out in 2018, the Aventar will cost even more than the Rex-L, though exact pricing is yet to be determined. You’ll be able to program your own massages, in addition to the 25 presets it comes with. It has Bluetooth speakers and will enhance your VR sessions by tilting and vibrating along with your video or game.
But Bodyfriend also sees it as a health device, saying it has a team of doctors that do R&D and base the chair’s massages on pressure points, similar to acupuncture. The new chair will also scan your body, measure your weight, and monitor your stress levels. Octogenarians can send their heart rates to their worried children. Bodyfriend is working with Seoul National University to develop diet programs to go along with the chair (presumably to be suggested if the app notices your weight creeping up?) The chair even has a zero-gravity position, which the team says is suitable for sleeping, as it takes weight off the back.
Bodyfriend is entering the U.S. market, with four stores set to open on the West Coast in 2017. Even if you can’t afford its futuristic chairs, you may still be able to book a session in a showroom.