I’ll start this post by stating a simple, known fact: I am not a runner. I’m more of a jogger or a fast walker, but once I’ve started I’ll at least keep going — even if my speed isn’t going to win any medals. The Vi AI Personal Trainer aims to help me become a better and more consistent runner.
Is it possible that Vi can make me love running? I doubt it, but I still gave Vi a chance. Along the way, I’ve found out that Vi is so much more than just a personal trainer, it (she?) is a pretty handy hands-free headset, too.
Included in the box are the Vi headset, a microUSB to USB charger, a carrying case, five sets of differently sized ear tips, three different sized ear hooks, and a carrying case for those options.
Vi AI Personal Trainer Tech Specs and Features/ OS Compatibility
iOS & Android: Health Kit and Google Fit compatibility
Wireless connectivity: BT and BLE
Battery: last 8+ hours; Rechargeable Lithium Polymer 3.72V 2 x 90 mAh
Audio Stack: High fidelity sound powered by Harman Kardon
Built-In Sensors: Heartrate sensor, 6 axis accelerometer and gyro meter, Barometer, In-ear detection sensor, Automatic speech recognition, Earbud touch for voice trigger
The Vi AI Personal Trainer has a main, flexible rubber horseshoe (for lack of a better word) that fits around your neck. The Vi neckpiece is sweatproof and flexible; Vi has an IPX5 rating, so while she’s rugged enough for workouts in humid climates or rain, you can’t swim with her.
Like several other popular wireless headsets available, Vi has wired bio-sensing plastic earpieces that come off of the wireless neckpiece. The anodized aluminum ear caps have magnets on their ends, so they can either stick to the ends of the neckpiece or they can stick to each other.
On the right neckpiece end, the side that has the rubberized control buttons, the metal cap will lift off to reveal a microUSB charging port.
While Vi is charging, the backlit Vi logo will flash green; once fully charged it will glow green. When you turn Vi on, the neck strap will vibrate and the Vi logo will flash green then flash blue.
The earpieces are more than just comfortable and functional; the left one has a built-in heart-rate monitor, and the right has a touch sensor. Vi can also monitor your elevation, cadence, speed, time, and location.
There are three buttons and a microphone on the right side of the neckpiece. The + button makes the volume longer, and it will also advance the music track to the next song. In the middle is a round power and multifunction button, which pauses and plays music during workouts, and when you are called will allow you to answer hang up the phone. The – button lowers volume and will reverse the playing music track to the previous one.
Vi fits so comfortably around your neck that you’ll almost forget it’s there. When you are exercising or you want to listen to music or answer calls, you can insert one or both earpieces. Otherwise, they can hang dangling, magnetically attach to each other, or magnetically attached to the ends of the neckpiece.
Just like every fitness tracker you’ve ever used, Vi will count your steps and keep track of them while in an active workout. Unlike other trackers, Vi will interact with you — giving you personalized coaching and motivation, unlike other trackers, she only counts steps when you are in an active workout mode; I do wish she’d track steps for you when simply worn around the neck.
What makes Vi different than other fitness devices on the market is that she’s not meant to just be an activity tracker; she’s a real-time coach. So while Vi can be worn while not in activity mode she won’t be tracking steps but she does has great audio quality (Harman/Kardon) and can be used as an all day device. Vi will connect to Apple HealthKit or Google Fit and can glean insights from those step counters when planning coaching for a run later that day.
When you connect Vi to your phone and turn the app on for the first time, you’ll be walked through a series of instructional screens that help you get setup, set goals, and tell Vi your name. Evidently, she knows Judith, but not Judie; I opted to not have her call me “homegirl”, “girlfriend”, or “knucklehead”. 😉
Vi will also connect with the Apple, Google, and Strava Health apps.
While you are wearing Vi, she will track your movements and give you real-time feedback based on your heart rate, motion, distance, speed, elevation, and more. Using a lifelike woman’s voice, Vi encourages you and listens to what you say back to her. She’ll tell you that “you aren’t done — get back on your bike” or to ‘hit it!”.
You can interact with Vi, too. If you say “heart rate,” she will tell you her current heart rate. If you say, “How am I doing?”, Vi will give you a summary of your progress. “Song radio” will create and start a Spotify station based on the song you are listening to. “Step to the beat” will activate coaching to improve the number of steps you take per minute. “Stop” will halt Vi’s in-run coaching and effort guidance.
More commands including music control, additional real time stats (such as cadence, speed, etc.), activating specific segments of training (such as an interval), will be added via free software updates as we continue to refine our capabilities.
If you’re worried about whether or not Vi will be able to understand you — perhaps because you have a speech impediment — don’t be.
We partnered with Nuance, widely recognized as one of the smartest voice recognition softwares in the world. This means Vi is better at understanding when words and sentences are said with variation, or are spoken differently to the exact way the software was ‘trained’. We have also placed the microphone on the neckband as close to the mouth as possible, so there will be no disruption due to poor microphone placement.
You can set Vi to track your workouts by distance (miles), time run, free run, and cycling. While Vi isn’t set up to necessarily track workouts like CrossFit, weightlifting, or other non-running exercises, you can still set her to free run and let her track your time and heart rate. Using Vi in this manner will let you keep up with calls and listen to music while working out. Vi will connect to your device’s music files or Spotify, so it’s easy to listen to exactly what you want to hear while exercising. Vi has a Bluetooth range of about 3 meters, and if you should get too far away from your phone she’ll alert you so that you can continue tracking.
When your workout involves distances, Vi will connect to your phone’s GPS to accurately route your map.
Vi will work without cellular or WiFi connection, by using the GPS chip in users’ phones. However, if there is poor GPS connection it will impact the accuracy of readings. GPS works best in areas where there is an open line of sight to the sky.
Right now, Vi is intended to be used for outdoor workouts, but treadmill workouts are coming. In the meantime, you can use her to track basic biometric feedback, answer calls, and listen to music.
When you first start working out with Vi, she’ll be more talkative as she is figuring you out. But I love the constant and positive encouragement. On your first run, she’ll tell you to remember this moment, that it’s the beginning of something special. She’ll ask you questions like whether you’ve ever worked out with a trainer before, or how many days you’d like to run per week. It’s important to make sure that you have the earpiece in properly so that Vi can monitor your heart rate properly as you go. If you only want to run with one earbud in place (so you can better hear traffic, for instance), just make sure you have the left earpiece in place, as that’s where all of the sensors are.
You might be curious about Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Vi’s ability to track it. From the FAQ:
HRV is a feature we are looking to add post-version 1. HRV can be used to detect fatigue and readiness to train. In version 1 Vi will be able to detect fatigue during workouts, without HRV, and will recommend to slow up. As we move forward, we are interested to see how Vi can take into consideration user’s pre-training conditions. For example, any workouts that have been done pre-run, user’s readiness to run etc. Then she could adjust the run accordingly. Recovery is a feature that we also will look to evaluate as we move forward. HRV is within our realm of possibility, but we would want to see how important this is to our users to decide if this is something we should work on sooner rather than later.
Now let’s talk about Vi’s other use — as a fantastic and versatile mobile device headset. If you like to listen to music on your commute, Vi is fab for that. Vi’s audio is powered by Harman Kardon, and the result is a better than average in-ear audio experience. The ear tips are comfortable, and the fins keep them in place for other daily activities when you need hands-free calling or you want to listen to music.
The only possible downside to Vi is that its battery lasts for about 8 hours; if you are using it solely for workouts, then that’s more than enough time. If you are using it for workouts and to wear throughout the day as a hands-free headset and for music, then you might want to take a moment when you have a chance to top off her battery; it takes about 45 minutes to fully charge Vi.
The Vi AI Personal Trainer is great for those who want more personal feedback than a regular fitness tracker could ever provide; she will cajole you, encourage you, and keep track of how you’ve done. I’m no runner, but she’s good for walks, too. Adding to “her” plus column, Vi makes a good commuting headset that looks and performs better than most; it’s like getting the ultimate convergent device.
The Vi site says that the personal trainer is “future-proof”, that they “intentionally overloaded Vi’s hardware to support years of software upgrades to increase her capabilities and expand workout activities.” In other words, expect more workouts to be added in the future, and expect other upgrades as time goes by; I’m hoping that they will add a meditation mode.
The Vi AI Personal Trainer retails for $249, and it is available directly from the manufacturer; you can also find it at Amazon [affiliate link] for $179.99.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Comfortable to wear; Multiple ear tips and fins to get the best fit; Won’t fall out during workouts; Vi gives feedback and makes suggestions based on your performance; Excellent Harman Kardon sound; Vi is great for hands-free calling and listening to music during your commute; Future-proof hardware with software updates pushing out regularly
What Needs Improvement: I wish Vi would track steps when worn but not in workout mode