Gym owner receives MCCY grant for individualised fitness app
Gym owner Jonathan Wong receives MCCY grant for his idea for an individualised fitness app
When the Covid-19 circuit breaker measures were implemented in April, shuttered gyms fell silent as the soundtrack of weights clanking and running shoes pounding the treadmill was put on pause.
Like many others, Jonathan Wong's gym business was in limbo until sports and fitness facilities were allowed to reopen in June. But the founder of Genesis Gym saw an opportunity amid the uncertainty.
Aside from conducting online fitness sessions, the computer engineering degree holder spent this period of disruption learning about running a software business.
Wong, who has worked with Paralympic bronze medallist swimmer Theresa Goh and tennis player Sarah Pang, read books and took courses so that he could build a health and fitness app.
It seems to have paid off for the 40-year-old as he is one of four recipients of the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth's Enterprise Innovation and Capability Development Grant.
The grant, which totals $3 million, is administered by national sports agency Sport Singapore. It supports sports businesses which aim to capitalise on growth opportunities in the digital economy.
Describing the motivation behind the app, Wong told The New Paper: "I want it to be such that you have a world-class coach for anyone that is interested in health...
"The average (price for a) good one-to-one trainer in Singapore is about $100-$150 per hour. That is beyond most people's budgets...
"So if we can build something that they can enjoy and afford by using technology, that would be beneficial...
"I'm a former fat boy, I had multiple health problems, I had scoliosis. I was in TAF (Trim and Fit) Club all the way (when I was in school)... I want to be able to help more people and technology is the only way."
Wong is expecting the prototype of his as yet unnamed app to be ready in six to eight months and is looking at pricing its services at around $15-$20 a month.
The app aims to use customer information such as their body type, fitness goals, history of injury or health issues, access to fitness equipment and time available to curate a customised workout and lifestyle plan for the user.
It can even be tailored based on any change in their fitness levels.
Wong, who is also the programme director of Singapore Management University's Exercise Science course, said the difference between his app and other workout videos or apps is the ability to tailor exercise regimens to the individual user.
Perhaps the app's most intriguing feature is the ability to monitor the user's form when executing an exercise and offer feedback on his or her technique or tempo by the time the next set rolls along.
He explained: "I'm not a computer engineer by occupation but, because of my background, I do stay in touch with what are the possibilities... in terms of technology.
"In the last three years, in the area of computer science called computer vision, there have been developments in pose estimation.
"It's where, using a normal video, you can see what a person is doing. It used to be that a long time ago in Hollywood or in a 3D computer game, you needed to wear a special suit with all those shiny balls and special cameras to track a person's movement.
"But over the past few years, computers, cameras, software and algorithms have gotten good enough that you can do it with just a video...
"After reading up on machine learning and things like that, I realised it (the app) is totally doable. It's just that I don't think anyone has put together both the technological understanding with the technical skill of coaching...
"We have over a million hours of documented training sessions. So we have all this data, we just need to train a computer with this data."