'Stealth' Core Trainer Aims To One-Up Nintendo's Wii Fit Balance Board
I doubt that anyone, including leading industry analysts or even Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie “My Body is Ready” Fils-Aime, could have predicted the wild success of Wii Fit and its accompanying Balance Board accessory. After its 2007 release, the fitness software and peripheral combo went on to sell over 22 million units worldwide, proving out a real demand for casual, health-centric video games. And it appears the aftershocks of Wii Fit’s success are still being felt today, specifically in the mobile market.
Jumping into the games-as-fitness space is newcomer Stealth, a piece of smartphone-powered exercise equipment that managed to raise almost $400,000 via a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign back in December. The gamified contraption combines a physical board with an interactive scoring application and uses your phone’s accelerometer to track body movements. Interestingly, the whole experience is centered around one specific kind of exercise.
“It all came from me seeing this trend of planking and planking competitions,” says Stealth co-creator Howard Panes, who’s been a personal trainer for the past 24 years. “I had invented some fitness products before, but I'm always looking for the next best thing. So I noticed that wherever I was going, whatever gyms I was working out at, I saw people doing the plank exercise. Basically, if you do one exercise for your whole body, the plank is probably the best, because you're working all your core muscles, your legs, your shoulders. So I started doing [planks] religiously, and then I said to myself, 'Holy God, this is so boring'.”
And so Howard set out to solve this problem of engagement, to turn planking from a stale test of endurance and strength into something more appealing. The first step would be cobbling together what was essentially a rough draft of the ultimate planking machine, and so Howard called his old friend Don Brown, creator of the Ab Roller and Ab Coaster, to help out with conceptualization. "I didn't know how to do it by myself," Howard admits. "I knew he could help turn my idea into the reality of what morphed into Stealth. Him and I began working on sketches, and we basically planned out the idea as a real product. Don actually put together the [original] prototype using a foam board and some cut-out plywood, then mounted a plastic dog ball on the bottom with strong tape. Pretty much products you can get at a pet store and Home Depot.”
Over the course of prototyping, Howard and Don interacted with numerous engineers and designers before finally settling on a patent pending ball-hinge-joint construction that is entirely unique to Stealth. The innovative composition allows the board to tilt right, left, forward and also pivot. And as Howard says, it’s rather different than a traditional wobble board. “You could plank on a wobble board,” Howard explains, “but it's much different than if you had a ball and pivot, because if you try to move forward, you'll slide. So we had to have something that was fixed on the bottom. It looks like it's simple to put together, but we went through 20 or 30 modifications to get the right feel. It's been a monumental challenge.” While there were initial plans to possibly build a screen directly into the Stealth board, that idea was scrapped in favor of, as Howard assures, a one-size-fits-all smartphone slot that can accommodate most devices, even large phones like the iPhone 7 Plus.
But as we now know, Stealth isn’t just an exercise board—it’s also a video game. And from what I’ve gathered talking to Howard, it seems that he’s done his homework. “I interviewed dozens of game designers and game developers, negotiating their fees, [researching] whether they were in the country or out of the country. Our goal was to have Stealth manufactured and developed in the US. So we were able to find US game designers and went through dozens of concepts before we settled on what's called Core Challenge, which comes free with [Stealth].” Howard says that the app development fee alone was somewhere between $60K and $100K.
Read more at Forbes: Forbes Review: Stealth Core Trainer