By Justin Lawler, interview with Louis Crowe, Medical Doctor, Researcher and Inventor of the BionicGym, recently launched on Indiegogo
Describe the company
Bionic Gym is a new way of exercising. Exercise is key for health, happiness and sporting prowess.
By interacting with the prepherial nervous system, we can make people exercise intensely like never before. It’s a new training stimulus for elite athletes. Or if you just want to exercise while lying on your couch and do the equivalent of running a marathon, we can do that too.
We’re very happy to be bringing this out to the public.
— BionicGym (@bionicgym) November 16, 2016
How are you different?
We can exercise people intensely.
Other electrical stimulation devices, toners, massages, tend to exercise only a small portion of the muscle set. Whereas we can generate huge caloric expenditure. By inducing the muscles to expend this energy that it then puts the demand on the cardiovascular system.
We do this by inducing the body to shiver. When you shiver, it creates heat. We do this through electrical stimulus. The effect is we can bring in a large amount of muscle bulk and exercise it at an optimal rate.
We’ve got clinical data, and we can get the heart rate way up. Other products might bring up the heart rate a few beats per minute. We can increase the heart rate to 150 beats per minute.
The technology is sound. Our clinical trials & clinical data shows it clearly works.
Why will the company/product do well?
We’re addressing fundamental human needs.
Everyone wants to look better. To feel better. To be more healthy. When you exercise with the BionicGym, you feel good for the rest of the day.
The BionicGym addresses many health concerns. 8 of the top 10 causes of morbidity, illnesses or fatality that affects the developed world – from hypertension to obesity, to strokes, to cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, even some of the cancers, are very positively influenced by exercise.
We can exercise people who just want it as an alternative to exercise, to people who want to reach new performance heights. We can also exercise people who presently can’t exercise, whether this is due to arthritis or due to other factors such as obesity.
Where are you based?
Dual based, in Dublin & Galway
When was the company launched?
We inaugurated the company officially two years ago, but we’ve been working on the product for 16 years.
We’ve been working on the technology for 16 years with different companies. QualTech, a biomedical research company in Galway. With universities, with hospitals in the UK and Ireland. Even with the European Space Agency.
In an ideal world, this would have been brought out a long-long time ago. Some of the commercial people decided it wasn’t for them for whatever reasons.
In the absence of others bringing it out, we’re bringing it out ourselves through Indiegogo.
What have been your biggest wins to date?
The smile on patients faces of course.
The technology itself. People have been trying to do this for 50 years. People have been making claims to do this for many years. But being able to show & prove that this works. That’s been an incredible win to do what others have tried & failed to be able to do.
And of course the success of the Kickstarter campaign.
Tell us a little more about how has the Indiegogo campaign has been going?
Very well, we’ve just reached our stretch goal of 125 USD. People from 37 countries have put hard cash on the table for this for a product they won’t see for a year. That’s what the investors like, to see if people are interested.
From countries, 50% are from the US, 10% from Ireland, 10% from Germany. A few oddities, for some reason we’re big in Thailand. Singapore as well. Less of a surprise with Singapore, I guess.
Just reached a 100k. Thanks to all our backers so far and look forward to intense training on the sofa! https://t.co/5ajiXRRB8q
— BionicGym (@bionicgym) November 30, 2016
We may land in the Indiegogo In-Demand section if everything continues as it’s been going.
When is the Indiegogo campaign finished?
20th of December, so great to get a final push between now and then.
Now comes the hard work of building the product and getting it out into the real world. How do you feel about that?
Everything is easier with money. We have a new team member joining us officially today. I was meeting with a manufacturing company yesterday, based in Galway. Everything is very doable. It just requires time & attention to detail.
We were very conservative with our timelines with Indiegogo. We gave ourselves until September until we were manufacturing the product. This will give us leeway.
While the product does a lot, from an electronics perspective, it’s not rocket science. It’s just electronics interacting with the nervous system. That’s the nice part. It’s not fancy electronics. The break-through is how we interact with the body to recruit much more muscle contracting at an optimal rate (7-8Hz).
What type of people are you trying to attract to your product?
At the moment we’re doing crowd-funding. So it’s tailored to that community. These tend to be male, tech-savvy, and quite fit. We’ve tailored the Indiegogo campaign for this segment.
Afterwards, we’ll be segmenting the market, an elite product tailored to athletes, and for the person who wants to use it for a few hours in the evening to loose weight and burn calories.
Medium and long term we will be promoting it as a discrete medical device, particularly for diabetes.
10% of the population are diabetic. A further 10% are pre-diabetic. Without a step-change in exercise-level, they will be condemned to a shorter life with less than optimal health. We feel we have something very good to offer these people.
Tell us about your team?
Myself, I’m a medical doctor originally. I’ve worked in casualty in geriatrics, and I’ve worked in Africa as well. But I’ve always been interested in design and innovation and hacking the body as well. Hacking that will do something that will improve patients wellbeing & lives with technology.
Barry Broderick is an electrical engineer. He was Galway based. He may be moving to Canada shortly, so we’ll be working remotely. He’s previously launched his own medical device as well, so he’s a great addition.
Noel Ryan is an IT engineer with a bucket load of experience. He’s previously worked with me on electrical stimulation projects in UCD. He knows the technology and what’s involved.
We’re looking to expand the team, particularly on the business side.
We’ve got some wonderful mentors and advisors as well.
What are you long term plans for your product/company?
There’s a possibility this will go down the Direct Response TV. This type of selling has a bad reputation, perhaps deservedly, but it would allow us to grow extremely rapidly. Certainly, when you mention it to investors, they get very keen.
We will be going down the retail route with partners as well; we hope to have a partnership with a large company going forward as well.
Much further down the road would be implanted devices. There’s one thing about say a pacemaker. Everyone is 100% compliant with a pacemaker.
Everyone knows they should exercise, but they tend not to because of all these different barriers. As devices become progressively more integrated with the body, we can overcome a lot of these barriers and deliver on the health and fitness and wellbeing benefits of exercise.
Next Phase for device
Having targeted products for different customers. Say for people who just want to exercise while sitting at work. Something that’s tailored specifically for this.
Some people may not believe it can work or it’s too good to be true?
This is in many ways the ultimate compliment!
Once they see it in action it clearly works. and once they try it they know how it will work for them. Some even say it’s ‘reassuringly tough’ as you increase the exercise intensity. No one who tries it asks does it work.
And there are many who like running and cycling and we say ‘great, that’s good exercise too!
What are your favourite tech gadgets?
Well, I always use my phone. I’m not sure it’s my favourite one, but it’s my most commonly used one.
I like gadgets I can play with and show around. I like anything that’s got to do with exercise.
What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?
We’d like greater integration with heart rate monitoring.
At the moment we’re using an external heart rate monitor we just take off the self. Regarding tech that can help us, if we could integrate with a Fitbit more closely, that would be helpful.
Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?
I’d like to invite everyone to join the campaign on Indiegogo.
We need your support to get this over the line, to deliver this, this new way of exercising, to spread this throughout society.