The day when your members will be able to talk to a treadmill to adjust the incline or to interact with a fitness app using voice recognition may be closer than you think These technologies could help improve and enhance the customer experience Photo by Thinkstock

The day when your members will be able to talk to a treadmill to adjust the incline or to interact with a fitness app using voice recognition may be closer than you think. These technologies could help improve and enhance the customer experience. (Photo by Thinkstock.)

Voice-Recognition Technology May Be the Next Big Fitness Trend

The member experience at your health club may soon change if recent breakthroughs in speech recognition and artificial intelligence make treadmills and other equipment reactive to voice commands rather than to just touch. 

If you've used Siri on your iPhone, perhaps you've been frustrated. The technology does not always work well, and that can cause many people to not want to use it. Researchers say, however, recent breakthroughs in speech recognition and artificial intelligence will soon make gadgets much better at understanding us. This new breed of machines, which are able to not only hear us but to understand context and nuance, are right around the corner, according to a number of technology experts.

What does this mean for the health club business? Think of personal training apps that converse with your members like an intelligent coach. Think of your members being able to speak to the treadmills to increase the incline instead of pushing a button. These possibilities and others will become more viable a few years from now. Not convinced? Read on.

Earlier this year, Facebook confirmed its acquisition of Wit.ai, a company that provides an API for building voice-activated interfaces. Wit.ai already has more than 6,000 developers on its platform.  Although building speech recognition and voice control is a complicated technical process, Wit.ai allows developers to build this capability into their products just by adding a few lines of code. Facebook is planning to incorporate voice recognition into its platform.

You might have heard of SoundHound, a song-identification service like Shazam. The company's management announced a project called Hound, which is a voice-controlled interface you might soon see inside every phone, tablet, car, toaster and perhaps treadmill on the planet.

You might think that these new voice solutions won't fill the bill from a user perspective, but they will. Keep this in mind: three years ago, Google's voice recognition could understand just three out of four words. Thanks to an accelerated pace of innovation, Google apps on your phone right now can correctly guess 12 out of every 13 words. Many people believe a world where devices don't have keyboards are not far behind, and this will positively affect user interfaces for all technologies we use today.

An increasingly crowded playing field with Hound, Siri, Cortana, Google Now, Viv and Dragon Mobile Assistant among a dozen others are all vying for this exploding voice interface market. These newer technologies are seeking to integrate with mobile devices, including wearables, to create interfaces and technologies that will make the delivery of fitness services and experiences better.

So what do you think? Will voice-recognition technology improve customer experience at health clubs? Let me know by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below.

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