Apple TV, home fitness & the future of the workout video

Screenshot of a fitness app, showing a woman doing sit-up exercises on a yoga mat.

The fourth-generation Apple TV, and its overhauled operating system tvOS, present massive opportunities for wide range of apps to make their debut in users’ living rooms. As we discussed in our recent webinar on Apple TV and tvOS, the context of a user in their home is much different than a user on the go on their mobile devices, so apps need to be rethought to cater to those expectations.

However, there are certain types of apps that are as relevant in a television context as they are in a mobile context—if not more so. Because of a user’s unique expectations for the types of activities they’ll do at home, versus the kinds of tasks they’ll accomplish through a mobile app, developers can build applications that solve problems or simplify tasks that users only consider when they’re in their home.

Specifically, an outlet for brands to make a positive impact is in the realm of home health and fitness. Most people work out in their homes, rather than at the gym, and a pocket industry of instructional workout content has sprung up to support this interest. With the new capabilities of Apple TV, brands have an opportunity to make these at-home fitness experiences more connected and personalized than ever before.

An Apple TV a day keeps the doctor away

The television is the centerpiece of millions of living rooms, with a unique degree of reverence and importance designated by its focused placement in front of the most comfortable seating in the house. And many people prepare and eat a majority of their meals within range of their television, a fact that has spawned entire channels dedicated to instructional cooking content intended to be followed in real time, or perhaps consumed and saved for later.

Recipe management applications have become massively popular for iPad, as the device is traditionally considered the preferred device to accompany a home cook in the kitchen. But the bridge between cooking content—the video programs of professional chefs pontificating on the advantages of garlic—and recipe management has always been a tenuous one, forcing many people to either bring videos into the kitchen with them or take notes for themselves.

The popular Paprika recipes app for iPad. Source: The Sweet Setup

Cooking shows are better when they’re interactive.

The symbiosis of Apple TV with the broader iOS ecosystem makes the device uniquely qualified to solve this problem for cooking aficionados. Stream cooking shows or clips on demand through Apple TV. Tag the ones you want to save for later. Pick up where you left off on iPad or iPhone, with step-by-step recipes or supporting video content unique to that form factor.

Further, the interactive nature of Apple TV allows users to drill further into the content than they ever have before, and uncover new experiences that live at the intersection of content and interactivity. This is a trend that extends through all tvOS apps—offer a way to go deeper than streaming video, and the TV transcends the usefulness of an iPad and becomes a uniquely useful device in its own right.

The best tvOS apps transcend what’s possible on iOS devices.

Not sure how to flambé without singeing your eyebrows? Click the on-screen tooltip to see an instructional video. Not sure where to buy those health-food ingredients for a particular recipe? Click the button in the overlay to find a nearby store. With tvOS, this kind of programming can become more powerful and immersive than ever before.

From couch potato to couch Apple?

Of course, the other side to fitness is activity, and Apple TV provides new ways for lifestyle and fitness brands to extend their reach into users’ living rooms. Technological formats for instructional workout videos are nothing new—they’ve been ubiquitous since the VHS tape, and have enormous brands entirely dedicated to them. But beyond the DVD are wholly interactive experiences that provide real-time feedback and personalized coaching, replicating the gym training experience in the home.

And still, many digital products have attempted to deliver on this vision already. Microsoft has brought numerous fitness-focused apps to its Xbox platform with the motion-sensing Kinect, and Nintendo saw enormous success with Wii Fit and its custom motion-detecting hardware. But with its specified hardware capabilities, and because of its convergence with other technologies in the Apple ecosystem, Apple TV is a perfect candidate to take these health and fitness concepts to the next level.

The Wii U Fit requires a lot of specialized hardware to be functional, which doesn’t all come with the Wii U. Also not included: friends cheering you on from the couch.

Your new personal trainer is a four-inch cube.

Apple TV has the necessary hardware to accurately track motion and users’ activity—the Siri Remote features an accelerometer and gyroscope to detect a wide range of motions and gestures. Coupled with intense processing power on the Apple TV itself, and with data provided by other hardware in the Apple ecosystem like Apple Watch and iPhone, apps running on Apple TV can get a great picture of how a user is moving and how intense their workout is.

The instructional workout is a perfect example of tvOS’s ability to bridge great streaming video content with a layer of interactivity. Because it’s receiving real-time data about the user’s motion and activity levels, it can proactively tailor the content to meet their needs. These apps can serve up exactly the type of workout that users are looking for and pivot throughout the process based on their biological feedback and level of involvement—just like a human personal trainer would.

The Zova app for Apple TV.

Apple TV can track users’ level of activity and biological feedback to adjust the workout or video content accordingly.

What’s more, this experience isn’t contained to the user in their living room. Because tvOS apps can be universal with their iOS counterparts, and because they can share data via CloudKit or any other backend, users can log workout and activity data to the same application from any of the devices they use.

These are experiences that an iPhone alone can’t deliver, and a reason for users to engage with a tvOS app in ways they don’t currently engage with other apps in the iOS ecosystem. Of course, there are a handful of apps making plays in the fitness and workout spaces on the tvOS App Store today, but none have yet leveraged the full Apple ecosystem to offer real value to users looking to get in shape at home. When the killer digital at-home workout experience comes—and it will—it will be riding the coattails of what’s new in Apple TV. Until then, it’s still a great way to binge Netflix over pizza.