How Technology is Going to Transform Fitness, Productivity and Human Intelligence in the Next Couple of Years

By on February 6, 2015

At their recent Windows 10 event, Microsoft unveiled their Microsoft HoloLens and took everyone by surprise. It’s an awesome looking device that essentially combines Google Glass with an Oculus Rift and allows you to see 3D imagery projected as ‘holograms’ into your surroundings as long as you’re wearing the headset.

It’s an incredible idea with some amazing applications from playing computer games that let you drive virtual RC cars over your furniture, to attaching virtual monitors to every wall in your house.


But when you combine this technology with some of the other things in development currently from Microsoft and other companies: the Oculus Rift, the Kinect sensor, the IllumiRoom and all the amazing fitness trackers on the market at the moment… that’s when things get really exciting. If everything comes together the way it should, then we’re going to see a complete transformation in the way that we work, train and even think in the next few years…

For example…

HoloLens, Oculus Rift and Kinect for Fitness

To be honest, I’m surprised that fitness hasn’t already been impacted in a big way by the new Kinect. Did you know that that sensor is capable of telling how much weight you have on each foot? Or that it can monitor your heartrate by measuring slight changes in your skin color? Why aren’t there some amazing games that challenge us to improve our balance or just train our cardiovascular fitness? You could use this to improve everything from flexibility to jump height and gamify that in some really awesome ways.

But whatever. I at least hope that we’re going to see something similar come from the HoloLens. It obviously can track your movement to a very impressive degree, so how about having it throw projectiles at you that you have to dodge in your living room? Or how about chasing a chicken around Rocky style?

I am totally enamoured with the HoloLens concept...

I am totally enamoured with the HoloLens concept…

Better yet, what if you could combine the Kinect sensor with HoloLens? They both belong to Microsoft, so that’s where I’m very much hoping they’re going with it. Combine these things and you’ve got three dimensional holograms right in your living room and a full-body motion sensor so accurate it can measure your every movement. You could have a virtual personal trainer right there with you in your living room… Or better yet, you could play that projectile game except that you’re able to fire back at your opponents and punch the missiles out the air. Imagine if you your workout could be like a virtual reality version of Metal Gear Rising? Or if it was like Wario Ware and one minute you’d be balancing across a thin beam over lava and the next you’d be leaping over oncoming obstacles or chasing a chicken.

metal gear rising

Add in props and sensors and this could become even more elaborate. You’re not doing a bench press – you’re pushing a boulder off of your chest!

All this can be combined with better fitness tracking that will be able to measure your hydration, your heartrate, your perspiration (the Jawbone UP3 should be able to do that and is slated to be released very soon!) and more as you train and increase or decrease the challenge in real-time in accordance with that information. Oh and all that data we collect from thousands of people tracking their data could be used to really streamline our workouts.

Lumafit is a fitness tracker that has successfully been funded on Kickstarter. Devices like this one can monitor your precise activity to count reps through sit-ups, identify swimming technique and more. Imagine being trained through subtle vibrations to perform the perfect deadlift.


And while HoloLens and Kinect are ‘living room technologies’, a better version of the Google Glass concept combined with decent fitness tracker could be amazing for going running. Imagine being able to run down the road and collect rings ala Sonic the Hedgehog to gamify your workouts, or being able to race your last best lap… At the very minimum you could have your speed, heartrate and other information on a HUD.

Virtual and Augmented Reality for Productivity

Productivity could also benefit hugely from virtual reality, augmented reality and the rest. HoloLens promises to let us turn every surface in our home into a display, whereas Virtual Desktop for the Oculus Rift already allows you to view your PC desktop in VR as a giant display just in-front of you. Now imagine if you could mimic having an extra display in that virtual display… or twenty. So that you could multitask with multiple different screens at once. Don’t have the power? Cloud computing could sort that out.

Or what if you were to combine the Kinect again, or something like the Leap Motion (which tracks finger gestures) and you weren’t dealing with extra displays anymore. Instead, you could look through a virtual filing cabinet to find the files you want to load, you could draw mind maps onto a blackboard and have them automatically saved as Evernote/OneNote files. Google Now or Cortana could look like actual holographic people in your virtual office – as could anyone you brought up on Skype.

We're actually not far away from this at all.

We’re actually not far away from this at all.

And in a virtual office, there would be no threat of becoming distracted by things going on around you, as you could be immersed in an environment perfectly conducive to work. Or, you could have a virtual office that’s located right on the edge of the Grand Canyon… whatever floats your boat.

But this is really a skeuomorph – an unnecessary recreation of something physical that actually no longer serves any purpose. If you can stream information directly to a virtual environment and give that information limitless power via the cloud, then recreating a virtual office is really a little unimaginative. Instead we might learn to interact with this information in whole new ways. Perhaps you’ll be able to type by creating finger gestures anywhere (no need for a keyboard), maybe you’ll fly through the web in a 3D space, or reach into your computer screen… There must be much more powerful ways to interact with information and to create media when you’re no longer constrained by the limitations of physical hardware…


(By the way, if you have an Oculus Rift you should totally check out JanusVR which is an incredible virtual reality browser that injects a true sense of exploration and potential into the device.)

Virtual Reality Brain Training

Once you have a virtual office that no longer resembles a human office, imagine what this might do to the brain. Imagine how our brain might develop once we begin juggling information in an entirely abstract way. And think about how this might impact on learning as well. Not just because you could explore what the pyramids looked like in their prime, or because you could use HoloLens to turn every surface in your home into a reminder of your subject… but because you could engage information in an entirely new way. The internet is already changing our attention and other aspects of the way our brains work. VR might allow us to cultivate whole new ways of visualizing information – whole new ways of thinking.

In a recent post I talked about synaesthesia and a study that demonstrated that grapheme -> color synaesthesia could be developed through training. In other words, if you see a letter or number written in a particular color often enough, you can eventually start to experience all letters and numbers in those colors and thus improve your memory, your math ability and more. (So, Lawnmower Man…)

lawnmower man

This is an example of ‘brain plasticity’ – which is our brain’s ability to change shape in response to training and experience. It’s our reality around us that changes the way our neural connections form and the way our brain works. But if you could change reality, how might this enable you to rewire your brain? You could certainly use virtual reality to train all kinds of synaesthesia abilities or maybe you could us that or VR to help you become better at estimating distances. Imagine looking at the world around you through augmented reality goggles and getting information on distances and temperatures and eventually learning to make these precise estimates yourself. Imagine being able to look at a page of information and have the key words highlighted for better skimming and speed reading and super-rapid learning…

Maybe you could use VR to improve your reactions… Imagine a game that emulated real life but sped up – so that when you took your VR headset off everything seemed slower and you’d have more time to make decisions.

The problem with regular brain training games is that they only seem to be particularly useful at training context-sensitive abilities. Play a game where you match colors and you’ll pretty much improve at matching colors…

But play regular computer games like Call of Duty and apparently you can improve your visual acuity, your reflexes, your spatial awareness and even your ability to quickly make accurate decisions (1, 2). Turns out that seeing enemies in the distance, identifying them as such and deciding which one to shoot first is a very transferrable (and awesome) skill. Now if you take that and put it in a virtual environment, you have something that will seem even more lifelike to the human brain and thus should lead to even more rapid and useful changes. I by the way would love a VR/AR training program that would train both my reflexes, decision making, focus and memory and my strength, agility, flexibility and CV. And I think that could be possible and awesome, especially if made into a competitive virtual sport or action game.

For now, playing a Wreckless Disregard for Gravity with the Oculus Rift is pretty awesome for training your reflexes and attention...

For now, playing a Wreckless Disregard for Gravity with the Oculus Rift is pretty awesome for training your reflexes and attention…

More to the point though, by training the brain in an abstract way only possible through virtual reality, you could change the brain in currently unimaginable ways. You know how living in space could cause your body to adapt and change to better suit that environment? Imagine how your brain might change if subjected to a whole different virtual reality.

It might be a while before we start directly interfacing with information in these strange ways but virtual and augmented reality productivity and fitness are just around the corner. In the next few years, technology is bound to be a much bigger part of our training and our productivity and where this goes is limited only by our imaginations. This is an incredibly exciting time to be alive!

Some Awesome Sci-Fi Future Tech You Can Already Try Out

  • The Oculus Rift DK1/2
  • Google Glass
  • Google Cardboard – The cheapest and easiest way to try VR as long as you have a working Android
  • Leap Motion – Control a computer with your fingers and sculpt 3D models with your hands. Except not quite, I’m not really sold on this yet though I still occasionally have fun with mind and I think it has potential…
  • Microsoft Band
  • Xbox One + Kinect

Let me know if I’ve missed anything…

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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