And so, with that in mind, I've been pushing to get Fuelr into the hands of real users as quickly as possible.
If you're not familiar with the Fuelr project, you may want to jump back here for an overview.
The Fuelr iOS app, for iPad, although far from production ready, is functional - or so I hoped. Actually, until the live session, I hadn't even seen some of the key features of the group video sessions working in development so I was a bit twitchy.
The goals for this live trial were:
- See if the current prototype was sufficiently functional to deliver a real training session.
- Test the product with dubious broadband connectivity
- Test an initial content idea for a training session
- Test if the end users actually liked this kind of workout format and delivery
- Figure out some guidance / rules for the optimal physical setup for the trainer and the user
- Test the fidelity of the video stream
- Test the suitability of the audio
Setup with Testflight
The first issue with any such pre-release test is not so much the app itself, but getting normal people setup with the app, via Testflight, so that they can install and run it. IT always seems to create some confusion, but generally for this test, it was fine. The attendees made light work of the Testflight setup. That is, except one poor tester who suffered at the hands of some hidden iPad preferences, which wouldn't allow Testflight to install. After 15 minutes of debugging by phone, we had to abort and continue with the test session, which was a shame.
For those struggling with this issue, this article provided some tips to resolve, but alas, they didn't work for us.
I always had in my mind that the physical setup was going to be key for the smooth and seamless delivery of the training, the communication, the relationship between trainer and client. Factors I was considering, included:
- Relative height of device to the trainer
- Relative angle of device to the trainer
- Distance of trainer to the device
- Effect of above on audio fidelity and the potential need for external microphone
- Lighting and effect on visual fidelity
- Optimal contrast between environment background and the trainer/clothing
- Amount of general space required for trainer to demonstrate exercises effectively
In reality, the iPad is bloody fiddly to position in any way that is not the specific design of whatever general purpose case you are using - there's normally one or two position variants and anything else will just mean that it falls over.
At this point, I'm less concerned with finding the correct case / stand solution, but more concerned with figuring out where the ipad needs to be in relation to the trainer for optimal quality of the session.
So, with the help of a step ladder, a blanket, some cushions, a magazine and and elastic bungee cord - we had our makeshift way of getting the ipad at the correct height and angle to correctly frame Jo, our trainer, in the video. We could also quickly adjust the angle, great for the shift from standing to floor exercises, by inserting a magazine behind the ipad which was under pressure from the bungee cord and so stayed nicely in place.
We found that it was better to have the device lower down, around 1 - 2ft from the floor, angled up slightly for standing shots. Though, I neglected to measure our final setup, note to self, do that next time.
Needless to say, not a scaleable or practical solution, but very useful for the purposes of determining the guidelines and possibly creating a low cost solution that could be sent to trainers and users to improve the overall experience.
From the trainer side, we ran the session from a fairly poor 6mbps down / 0.5 mbps up ADSL line. At Jo's end, we had a couple of issues with the video stream freezing, particularly when we had more then one device connected to the session on the same network. When we killed the additional device connections and refreshed the session, we got through the entire 2nd half of the session without issue.
For the clients on the other side, of whom, I know at least one had a good 60mpbs down / 18mbps up connection, they reported no issues of freezing or lost connection to the video stream. "It's just like Facetime..." said one of the participants, not sure whether that was compliment, at least she didn't say Skype ;)
My challenge to Jo, who is in charge of the operational side of things, was to think about the style and tone of the content. To think about what type of sessions would be compelling, engaging and fun when delivered. Our initial session was a highly targeted, dynamic 30 minute glute workout, shaping those buns for the summer ahead. After a quick warm up, there was a smooth transition into the main workout and then into the cool down.
The content was good, had zero dependencies in terms of equipment and the guys had a great time during the session.
A really interesting side effect was that, through the Fuelr session, the people training who didn't know each other before hand, really engaged with each other and with the trainer in a way that was unexpected. This was a really positive outcome and one I'm keen to investigate the dynamic of in future sessions.
To Sum Up
Really pleased we simply managed to successfully complete a full session, via a 3-way connected iPad network, with people who didn't know each other - engaging around a common goal - to tighten up their buns!
Can't wait to push this further and see where it leads.