At the pointy end of the activity analytics and automated coaching field, Performance Lab is an innovative North Shore company providing tech solutions to giants of the wearable fitness device industry. Co-founder, Kerri McMaster tells us how their work is different, why the North Shore, and why looking out your window is good for you.
A powerful transformation
When it launched some 25 years ago, Performance Lab was a consulting business gathering test data to assist endurance athletes in boosting their performance, and to help manage lifestyle-controlled disease in the public via exercise intervention. With a massive pool of data and expertise to draw on, Performance Lab set about creating high-tech automated and intuitive coaching engines for the wearables market.
“We provide artificial intelligence software engines to interface with exercise platforms and hardware,” she says.
High spec tech
Chances are you’ve already unknowingly seen some of them. Performance Lab partner with big industry players like Oakley to bring products such as their Radar Pace sunglasses to market.
“You can talk to the glasses,” McMaster offers, “You can say ‘okay Radar, what’s my speed? Am I at the right pace? What’s my stride rate? Is this the right intensity?’ and it will answer you as well as coaching you independently.”
How Performance Lab keeps the wearer motivated
The wearables market is awash with all manner of watches, headsets, glasses and monitoring devices, but McMaster says many users become bored of these products and lose motivation as soon as the novelty of seeing your metrics wears off. People want to know what to do next. She says this is where their technology comes in. It computes the metrics based on where the user is up to in their programme and what their goal is, and tells them what to do next. “We offer the coaching component that’s missing,” she says.
The AI element of their engines allows the device using them to generate a training programme; offer an audible or visual in-session coaching experience; and to provide post-workout coaching based on what happened in that session, what was expected and what is yet to come in that user’s specific programme. This type of recalibration means it’s suitable for everyone from true beginners who are likely to deal with life’s interruptions like work, sickness and family responsibilities, right through to professional athletes for whom success depends on an intelligent training regime.
Look out the window – it’s good for you
An avid health and fitness proponent to this day, McMaster was a self-professed sports fanatic in her adolescence, culminating in two karate world championships. We asked her if she had any tips for the chained-to-a-desk nine-to-fiver. In addition to three-weekly sessions of a simple activity like walking she suggested substituting something we usually do for a healthier option.
“Could be in the form of food, the form of your mental health, the form of moving… you don’t have to add anything extra, you just swap it out, make a choice that is more health-orientated.”
She offered an example, “If you’re based on the North Shore you are very literally in one of the most beautiful places in the whole world… take a moment to observe the beauty of where we are. That will positively impact your health and wellbeing for that day – just look outside the window!”
Strengthening the hub and giving back
As a member of the North Shore’s innovative tech hub, McMaster is excited about two things Performance Lab has on its horizon. The first being its imminent move to the New Zealand Human Performance Innovation Centre, which is currently under construction at AUT Millennium – New Zealand’s world-class sports training facility based on the North Shore.
“We will be their first tenant”, she divulged proudly. “We have a strong commitment to keeping the business network for the North Shore bubbling away. We must remain innovative and the best way to do that is to get all the best innovator’s minds and research people working together in one location. I think it’s a really natural way to stimulate new ideas and generate more lateral thoughts on what we think the future is going to be.”
The other big news is Performance Lab’s upcoming three-stage trial involving a handful of corporations and 500 of its employees. McMaster describes it as “a health management programme, which will utilise our automated technology. In stage two we hope to expand to 1,000 [participants]. It’s our long-term view that we should trial for an entire region of New Zealand and longitudinally look at how we can impact on hospital admissions, GP visits, and see what kind of long-term impact we can have on lifestyle-controllable disease.”
If successful, the trial will be another example of the North Shore – New Zealand’s innovation corridor – leading the way with work that benefits the entire country and perhaps the world. Watch this space.