We knew it as early as 2008: music, according to a study that year, increases exercise endurance. Thirty participants were given tracks by Queen, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Madonna and asked to keep in strict time with the beat of the songs, and the researchers found the runners had increased their endurance 15 percent, and kept up their motivation through a tough workout.
Times have changed–you won’t hear Queen over a gym loudspeaker anymore–as has the tech that we use to work out with. 2008’s Fitbit was a glorified pedometer you wore in a pocket. With the capability of today’s fitness trackers, and the DJ-injected taste of today’s motivational music, it was only a matter of time before someone married the two.
That marriage is called myBeat technology of RockMyRun, an Android and iPhone app that matches your music to your heartbeat.
“Growing up the chubby kid, I knew what it was like to find it difficult to exercise, and that can be something that holds a lot of people back,” says Adam Riggs-Ziegen, co-founder of RockMyRun. “There is clearly a need to have people better enjoy exercise, and if they enjoy exercise, they do it.”
Riggs-Ziegen knows something about how to make people move: he’d been a club DJ for over ten years. And when he left the scene, he worked at Qualcomm, the company that makes the chips you find in almost every Android phone. He’d been a runner for about six years until he decided he would branch out and fill a niche: marrying music and fitness in an app that tailors your tunes to your heartbeat as you run.
In short: “We bring in data from your smartphone or a Bluetooth heart rate monitor, and we change the tempo of that according to a set of patent pending algorithms based on your steps and your heart rate,” Riggs-Ziegen says. Based on data from a Bluetooth-connected wearable that reads continuous heart rate and steps taken, the apps will cue up different techno-based tunes based on your pace and heart rate. You start with a motivational mix, and go from there. Whether it’s a 30-minute workout, an hour, a four-hour marathon, intervals or weights, as you fatigue, the app starts playing more motivational lyrics.
While apps like Beats and Stereomood let you input how you feel (“I feel like drinking a bottle of wine by myself” or “Sad”), RockMyRun tailors upbeat, techno-based music to you based on your biometrics. “The big vision,” says Riggs-Ziegen, “is that our music should be contextual. It should react to us.” He cites how music creates a mood or feeling in a movie or TV show. “I think that vision is something we can start to bring to reality as wearables provide more information about our body and connect it with intelligent algorithms.”
RockMyRun — a fitness app — is the first step in a long journey of contextual music, where your interaction with the app itself is minimal, as both a principle and because, well, no one wants to fiddle with their phone while their running.
“We have some very talented engineers who have expertise in something called digital signal processing,” Riggs-Ziegen says. “To change music tempo every second or every five seconds in a way that makes it so it doesn’t sound funny is just hard to do. That requires a certain level of expertise, but you also have to have the right ingredients in place. You have to have Bluetooth low energy on the majority of smartphones, which is finally starting to reach that point. You have to have heart rate in much more accessible metric. Prior to the past year, really the only way to get someone’s heart rate continuously is one of those kind of annoying heart rate straps you wear on your chest. The fact that you can now get it on your wrist sets the stage to be able to really do this.”