iFit builds immersive fitness experiences with Google Maps APIs

Editor’s note: Today’s guest blogger is Chase Brammer, Head of Product Development for iFit, a division of ICON Health and Fitness. ICON owns some of the best known brands in fitness, including NordicTrack, Proform, FreeMotion Fitness and Gold’s Gym. Read how iFit uses Google Maps APIs to build fitness equipment with Google Maps built-in. ICON is one of many customers sharing their story as part of our cross-country road trip, Code the Road.

Google Maps has been key in creating a great customer experiences for us, so we’re looking forward to welcoming the bus to Utah and participating in Code the Road. We’ll be providing a bike and treadmill to travel with the tour which demo how we are using Maps in our fitness equipment. We’ll also be hosting an event at our headquarters on June 2—one of the largest 5Ks to take place on treadmills—powered by iFit and Google Maps.

It’s tough for people to stick to their workout routines — but if you make it fun, social, and immersive they’re more likely to keep at it. To do that, we’ve built Google Maps into our line of fitness equipment, including treadmills and gym bikes. You can virtually run the Boston Marathon, bike the Tour de France, or just see whether you can beat your best friend in a short sprint.

When you’re on a treadmill or bike you can bring up Google Maps on an attached Android tablet and pick a route. You’ll see your progress on the map as you run or bike, and as the elevation of the route changes — for example if you’re heading up the Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill — the angle of the treadmill or bike changes to match the real-life incline. You can also see markers representing other people who have run the route to see how your time compared to theirs.

We use Google Maps Android API to display the route and to show markers along the way. The Elevation API grabs the exact elevation of the route so we can change the incline of the treadmill or bike to match the route’s, while Street View displays what the route actually looks like. There are plenty of reasons we chose Google Maps APIs, but one of the most important was the way it lets us combine Street View with the Elevation API like this to create a truly immersive experience for our users.
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One of the more interesting challenges we faced was how to place markers to show people their progress — including their position compared to another person — on a static map image.
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So far our users have created 13.5 million customized workouts on our equipment using Google Maps. They’ve run or biked 76.5 million miles and burned more than 6.5 billion calories. We’ve heard stories of people who could barely walk but kept exercising because of their interactions with Maps, and are now running road races. We’ve seen our customers get more active, reach their goals and explore the world while doing it.