Many people are familiar with the sudden compulsion to work out while watching a training montage in a movie. It may feel a tad ironic if they are eating junk food and sitting on the couch, but, deep down, inspiration for intense workouts arises for nearly everyone. Often times metaphorical labels of “letting the beast out” or “inner-animal” are used to describe this sensation.

Another phrase applied to extreme fitness is “superhero mode.” As protagonists in fantasy movies and comic books, extraordinary strength is part of what makes characters like Wonder Woman and Batman so enchanting and entertaining. Yet this label is not so abstract these days, as a new fitness app called RocketBody utilizes electrocardiography. This feature allows users to reach “Superman Mode,” according to a Q&A article with owner and founder Tim Lipsky published this week on Observer.

Story author Gabriela Barkho explained what has made the app so successful, writing:

As one of the 25 companies chosen for a 60-second flash pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco this month, RocketBody is currently leading the electrocardiography (ECG)-based fitness pack. By processing ECG data through the wrist using machine learning, the subscription training service can customize workouts based on the user’s fitness condition, recovery level and “optimal load level.”

It all began four years ago, when former professional wrestler Tim Lipsky began work on fitness tracking technology aimed at helping athletes train safely. Eventually, he and his team ended up working with what’s now known as ECG signal processing, which Apple launched beginning with its Series 4 watch. What began as a proprietary wearable, mainly sold to professional sports players, has become one of the earliest examples of ECG use in consumer health tech. … 

Explain to us how electrocardiography (ECG) technology was eventually developed and began being used by RocketBody on its original device.

We began by working Paul Bulai, a biophysicist, neuroscientist and associate professor at Belarusian State University, to develop a consumer-friendly product that does blood analysis. Most people don’t get their blood tested often for practical reasons, but we know it’s helpful for fitness training because it provides an understanding of muscle activity and heart rate, not just calories and steps. 

This is how we started investigating electrocardiography (ECG), which records the rhythm of the heart’s electrical signals, spending a year studying how ECG’s focus on the combination of blood work and heart rate could help us build our device.

Real world superheroes in ordinary life include people who invent and innovate technology that helps others. Based on the early results from RocketBody, it seems Lipsky and Bulai fall into that category.

To read Barkho’s full writeup, click here.