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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.

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Markos Kern

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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

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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.

Gallery
More features

Unique challenge

Ken Hughes, expert in consumer culture and human behaviour spoke as part of the Technogym Talks series of webinars about how operators can navigate the new consumer landscape

Les Mills Showcase

Bannatyne has driven member engagement with Les Mills during the lockdown

Super soft

As gyms reopen, restrictions on numbers are demanding more of their software. HCM asks the experts how their systems can enable gyms to cope with post lockdown requirements

Soft power

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing gyms across the world to temporarily close their doors, staying connected to your members digitally has never been more important. Software suppliers tell Steph Eaves how they’re contributing

PureGym scales up Funxtion’s digital integration

With the spread of COVID-19 forcing more people into isolation, PureGym worked with FunXtion to rapidly include a digital on-demand workout offering to support members at home

Pivot to digital

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Everyone’s on their smartphones, so we saw this as a massive opportunity to gamify group fitness
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British Military Fitness
British Military Fitness