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Fit Tech People: Markos Kern

Founder & CEO, Fun With Balls

Like gaming, it’s very addictive, but this time in a good way. Imagine shooting space invaders on a squash court or kicking a soccer ball to kill some monsters

Published in Fit Tech 2020 issue 1

What is Fun With Balls?
We’re a startup bringing new forms of exercise and sport to the market. Our systems merge real sports with gaming to create completely new experiences – you’re playing games while having a proper workout.

Imagine it like shooting space invaders on a squash court or kicking a soccer ball to kill some monsters. Like gaming, it’s very addictive, but this time in a good way.

How did you come up with the concept?
We all struggle with the motivation and discipline to be active but it’s incredibly easy to get lost in gaming for hours. So we thought we’d create a new mix of these two worlds to make society more active while having loads of fun. Participation is going down in a lot of sports and many locations are used very little, so our solution hits just the right spot.

Tell us more about your products
We started with interactiveSQUASH – we’re upgrading more and more squash courts around the globe and the numbers show a drastic improvement in play time and revenues for our operators, with some centres even breaking the 10 hour per day barrier for months.

With our latest product – MultiBall – we now also offer a simpler system for any kind of wall in schools, gyms and even hotels and offices.

All our products are very simple to use, they offer a multitude of apps and games and are operated by a simple touch of the wall. We use our own patented sensor system, which detects any object in an instant without cameras. The systems are online 24/7 and are built to last even in the toughest school environments to ensure hours of uninterrupted fun.

Why should the fitness industry embrace tech?
We’ve never lived in a time where things are changing as rapidly as they are now, and technology will only evolve faster in the future. Normal sports participation is declining rapidly because other things are becoming more and more interesting, especially for younger generations.

It’s very simple to see, if we don’t embrace this change and find ways for exercise and sport to stay relevant in a digital age, then our future as a species looks very grim.

How can tech be used to attract less active people to fitness?
A recent WHO report found that 28 per cent of adults are not meeting the minimum requirements for physical activity each week. In adolescents, this is 80 per cent. It’s fair to say that we are already in the midst of a real crisis here and the way we consume digital media is largely to blame for that.

But instead of complaining that “kids should go out and play more”, we have to understand what this change in preference really means and how it can be used to our advantage. We know people love games and get lost in them, so let them sweat while doing so.

Fun With Balls is a great business name! Would you say fun is the most important aspect of fitness/sport?
Fun definitely is the main aspect and we tend to forget that’s why sports started in the first place. With all the competition, federations and rules, it’s sometimes good to focus on what’s at the core of sports and fitness if you want to attract the masses.

Also, if you’re looking at changing these old and rigid structures, you really need to have the balls to disrupt these from the ground up!

What plans do you have for the business?
We’re growing rapidly and have big plans. Building our infrastructure more and launching new features is the main mission right now. All signs have been super positive already, but now we have to educate the world on how our systems, especially MultiBall, can be used in so many different ways.

We’re already working with some major brands to create meaningful activation campaigns for sports and we just started on-boarding our first third party developers before launching our App Store, which can then be used on all our systems. We have some more tricks up our sleeves, coming soon.

How do you foresee technology use in the fitness industry progressing over time?
I think technology is still in its very early days in this regard. We have a lot of gimmicks around that don’t really create real change or benefits, and it will be very interesting to see how meaningful tech can change that.

In the end, technology will enable us to create experiences and forms of sports and exercise that most of us can’t even imagine today. Meanwhile, the technology itself will become less and less noticeable, compared to the way it’s designed and operated today.

Anything else we should know?
What we’re building is a completely new category. One of the main elements is education of the existing industry to show the immense potential of this new trend and we very much encourage everybody to be open and look at this change as a great chance to revive and reinvent their business models.

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
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With the launch of 22 SERIES, a pioneering, new cardio line powered by iFit® – the world’s leading on-demand fitness streaming platform – Freemotion Fitness aims to change the way we think about – and deliver – fitness content to truly engage members.
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Safe Space Lockers Ltd: Lockers/interior design
Featured supplier: Not all fitness content is equal
With the launch of 22 SERIES, a pioneering, new cardio line powered by iFit® – the world’s leading on-demand fitness streaming platform – Freemotion Fitness aims to change the way we think about – and deliver – fitness content to truly engage members.
Featured supplier: Converting members in January has never been so simple with Volution’s new Lead Generation tool
Volution – the leading data solutions specialist for the fitness industry – has launched a Lead Generation tool that enables operators to harness the power of mobile technology and cloud-based infrastructure to streamline sales.
Company profile: Legend Club Management Systems (UK) Ltd
Legend provides the leading software solution for driving improvements in leisure operations. We deliver savings ...
Company profile: fibodo Limited
fibodo is the digital solution helping people lead healthier and happier lives. From grassroots individual ...
Freemotion FUSION Team Training
FreeMotion Fitness
The High-Intensity Cardio-Strength Training. Read more
Get Fit Tech
Sign up for the free digital edition of Fit Tech magazine and the free weekly Fit Tech ezine
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Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Software
Volution.fit: Software
Fitness equipment
TRX Training: Fitness equipment
Fitness Software
FunXtion International BV: Fitness Software
Lockers/interior design
Safe Space Lockers Ltd: Lockers/interior design

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features

Fit Tech People: Markos Kern

Founder & CEO, Fun With Balls

Like gaming, it’s very addictive, but this time in a good way. Imagine shooting space invaders on a squash court or kicking a soccer ball to kill some monsters

Published in Fit Tech 2020 issue 1

What is Fun With Balls?
We’re a startup bringing new forms of exercise and sport to the market. Our systems merge real sports with gaming to create completely new experiences – you’re playing games while having a proper workout.

Imagine it like shooting space invaders on a squash court or kicking a soccer ball to kill some monsters. Like gaming, it’s very addictive, but this time in a good way.

How did you come up with the concept?
We all struggle with the motivation and discipline to be active but it’s incredibly easy to get lost in gaming for hours. So we thought we’d create a new mix of these two worlds to make society more active while having loads of fun. Participation is going down in a lot of sports and many locations are used very little, so our solution hits just the right spot.

Tell us more about your products
We started with interactiveSQUASH – we’re upgrading more and more squash courts around the globe and the numbers show a drastic improvement in play time and revenues for our operators, with some centres even breaking the 10 hour per day barrier for months.

With our latest product – MultiBall – we now also offer a simpler system for any kind of wall in schools, gyms and even hotels and offices.

All our products are very simple to use, they offer a multitude of apps and games and are operated by a simple touch of the wall. We use our own patented sensor system, which detects any object in an instant without cameras. The systems are online 24/7 and are built to last even in the toughest school environments to ensure hours of uninterrupted fun.

Why should the fitness industry embrace tech?
We’ve never lived in a time where things are changing as rapidly as they are now, and technology will only evolve faster in the future. Normal sports participation is declining rapidly because other things are becoming more and more interesting, especially for younger generations.

It’s very simple to see, if we don’t embrace this change and find ways for exercise and sport to stay relevant in a digital age, then our future as a species looks very grim.

How can tech be used to attract less active people to fitness?
A recent WHO report found that 28 per cent of adults are not meeting the minimum requirements for physical activity each week. In adolescents, this is 80 per cent. It’s fair to say that we are already in the midst of a real crisis here and the way we consume digital media is largely to blame for that.

But instead of complaining that “kids should go out and play more”, we have to understand what this change in preference really means and how it can be used to our advantage. We know people love games and get lost in them, so let them sweat while doing so.

Fun With Balls is a great business name! Would you say fun is the most important aspect of fitness/sport?
Fun definitely is the main aspect and we tend to forget that’s why sports started in the first place. With all the competition, federations and rules, it’s sometimes good to focus on what’s at the core of sports and fitness if you want to attract the masses.

Also, if you’re looking at changing these old and rigid structures, you really need to have the balls to disrupt these from the ground up!

What plans do you have for the business?
We’re growing rapidly and have big plans. Building our infrastructure more and launching new features is the main mission right now. All signs have been super positive already, but now we have to educate the world on how our systems, especially MultiBall, can be used in so many different ways.

We’re already working with some major brands to create meaningful activation campaigns for sports and we just started on-boarding our first third party developers before launching our App Store, which can then be used on all our systems. We have some more tricks up our sleeves, coming soon.

How do you foresee technology use in the fitness industry progressing over time?
I think technology is still in its very early days in this regard. We have a lot of gimmicks around that don’t really create real change or benefits, and it will be very interesting to see how meaningful tech can change that.

In the end, technology will enable us to create experiences and forms of sports and exercise that most of us can’t even imagine today. Meanwhile, the technology itself will become less and less noticeable, compared to the way it’s designed and operated today.

Anything else we should know?
What we’re building is a completely new category. One of the main elements is education of the existing industry to show the immense potential of this new trend and we very much encourage everybody to be open and look at this change as a great chance to revive and reinvent their business models.

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
More features
interview

Paul Bowman, Wexer

The future of fitness is hybrid, says the CEO of Wexer. He shares his thoughts on why and how the industry should embrace this change
people

Ian Mullane

Founder, Keepme
Using predictive and machine learning models, operators can hyper-personalise engagement

Fighting COVID-19

In the aftermath of the pandemic, people will be more aware of the importance of their health and the strength of their immune system. Can fit tech alert users to potential immunodeficiencies or symptoms? And might these products assist governments? We asked industry leaders for their predictions

Create your own energy

A breakthrough in technology means wearable devices and other health and fitness products could soon be self-powered. Steph Eaves talks to Dr Ishara Dharmasena to find out how this could impact health and fitness
interview

Forme Life: Trent Ward & Yves Béhar

I think the big ‘a-ha’ moment was when we had the idea that a mirror would be the best way for somebody to learn
people

Patrick Lucey

VP of AI, Stats Perform
We can capture tracking data from historical videos, enabling us to do large scale comparisons of players, such as Michael Jordan, across eras
interview

PureGym

We’ve been ranked number two on the App Store for health and fitness, second only to Fitbit
interview

Sharon Hegarty, Samsung

We envisage a world where someone’s smart home can support their fitness regime
Editor's letter

Monetising digital

Having made a lightening fast pivot to digital during lockdown, gym operators are now figuring out how to optimise the assets they’ve invested in – it’s time to monetise digital and find ways to create hybrid models

Functional wearables

A new ultra-thin, stretchable electronic material could be a game changer for wearable tech
interview

Lindsay Cook, FitOn

Not everyone can afford an expensive piece of fitness equipment or a personal trainer, but everyone has a smartphone
people

Richard Hanbury

Founder and CEO, Sana
I was in Yemen, close to the capital, Sana’a, when I had the accident that put me in a wheelchair and gave me a chronic nerve damage pain problem. This led me to develop the underlying technology of Sana
Wexer
Wexer