Under Armour partners with IBM Watson on artificial intelligence-based coaching

Under Armour is adding artificial intelligence to fitness tracking with IBM Watson's help.

Under Armour plans to add artificial intelligence to fitness tracking with the help of IBM Watson, creating virtual coaching for athletes.

The sports apparel brand unveiled a collection of wearable technology products earlier this week to go with its tracking app, UA Record, including a smart shoe.

Today, the Baltimore-based brand announced plans to partner with IBM and use Watson's cognitive computing technology as a virtual coach, health consultant and fitness trainer. The coaching system will give athletes "timely, evidence-based coaching" on sleep, fitness activity and nutrition, the company announced in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show.

"When it comes to digital health and fitness tracking, the past ten years have been about data collection," said Kevin Plank, Under Armour's founder and CEO, in the announcement. 

"We're now at a point where a shift is occurring and consumers are demanding more from this information," Plank said. "This partnership will allow us to provide value back to the consumer in an unprecedented way."

Users will be able to compete against and compare with others of the same age in the database. The UA Record app will offer average weight, average resting heart rate and average steps and show the length of the average workout and how long someone is sleeping.

Under Armour plans to add new capabilities over the next year to help users customize programs, track nutrition and food intake and modify fitness programs based on the weather.

"As envisioned, a future version of the UA Record app powered by IBM Watson could be the first system to assess and combine a variety of factors that affect health and fitness programs," such as personal, physiological and behavioral data, nutrition, training knowledge and environmental factors, the company said in the announcement.

Watson, which continuously learns over time from previous interactions, already has started to transform industries such as healthcare, insurance and retail, said John Kelly, senior vice president of IBM Research and Solutions Portfolio, said in the announcement.

"As the first system of the cognitive era, Watson infuses a kind of thinking ability into digital applications, products and systems," Kelly said. "By leveraging the power of Watson, Under Amour will transform personal fitness, build deeper relationships with its customers and enhance virtually anyone's performance."

Plank said IBM Watson's machine learning technology will be integrated with data from Under Armour's connected fitness digital health and fitness community of more than 160 million people.


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