Remember those infomercials about muscle-boosting belts you could strap to your body, which promised you a six-pack while you sat on the couch? Well, those ads may have gone away, but the product – genuine versions, at least – have lived on, and have evolved into the SmartMio. It’s billed as the “world’s first connected and wearable sports muscle stimulator,” and it’s a world apart from those stupid belts.
The SmartMio is a small, 25 gram gadget which you can wear under your clothes, which links to two sticky electrode pads. It uses something called Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) to send pulses to specific muscles, which fool them into action. The idea is to get them working at times when you either aren’t able to hit the gym, or can’t due to an injury. EMS is a scientifically proven system, and SmartMio should provide improvements in six to eight weeks use.
Instead of being controlled by an onboard screen, a bulky set of buttons, and a proprietary OS, the SmartMio uses Bluetooth to connect to an app on your Android or iOS smartphone. After providing instructions on how and where to fit the electrodes on your body, it gives complete control over your workouts. There are various programs for endurance or strength training, for warm-ups, or even for massage and cool down. A workout planner also lets you set goals. Two SmartMio’s can be linked to the Bluetooth app, so you can work out two sets of muscles at the same time.
It sounds very cool, but the technology undoubtedly has a stigma attached to it. We spoke to SmartMio CEO Alex Pisarev and COO Filipp Almakov about the device to find out more about it. So, is this a magical device for the gym-shy? “It’s not a gym replacement,” said Almakov. “Some people ask if they can get the same end results without doing any regular training, and of course, the answer is no.” He told me, “Don’t cancel your gym membership just yet.”
They’re both quick to point out SmartMio isn’t really about EMS, a technology which has been around for years, but what makes SmartMio standout is its portability. “SmartMio is about giving people this technology on the go,” said Almakov, “we’re offering the advantages of EMS in a device you can wear on your body, and conveniently control from your mobile phone.” It’s not only aimed at “guys who go to the gym three times a week, but at any active sports person.” The tech can not only augment training, but also be used for relieving post-training soreness or even for injury recovery.
So how did the SmartMio come about? It was Pisarev’s father, Vladimir Pisarev, a doctor with 35 years of medical device engineering experience, who came up with the device. When Alex Pisarev got involved, the SmartMio still connected to a PC using a USB cable. They collaborated to make the device even smaller, added in Bluetooth connectivity, and developed the app. This was two-and-a-half years ago, and it has culminated in an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign launched this week.
There are a wide variety of options if you want to grab yourself a SmartMio, including several early bird offers, the cheapest of which offers the device for just $70. If you miss out on this, the price increases to $90 for one, or $170 for two. Almakov pointed out how competitive the pricing is, as most other portable EMS devices start at $500, and can reach $1500. The SmartMio campaign has a goal of $50,000, and at the time of writing, is close to securing half that amount with more than 40 days left to run. Provided it’s funded, the SmartMio should ship in November.