After Mobile App Success, Rock My World Introduces Fitness Chatbot

Adam Riggs-Zeigen has come a long way since 2013, when he co-founded San Diego’s Rock My World and introduced the mobile app RockMyRun to provide upbeat music playlists to motivate smartphone-equipped runners.

“We found that it expanded into other avenues, like fitness studios,” Riggs-Zeigen recalled in a recent interview. The following year, the startup created an algorithm that automatically adjusts the rhythm and tempo of songs to match the user’s pace and heart rate. “The algorithm to manipulate music tempo based on steps didn’t come in until mid-2014, because it was really challenging to develop that software,” he said. “We’re manipulating an audio file in real time.”

The innovation led to a segment on NBC’s “Today” show that included RockMyRun in a feature that highlighted “Five New Apps for Spring.”

The nationwide exposure sparked a surge in RockMyRun downloads, and helped put RockMyRun on the road to becoming one of the most popular running apps for both Android and iOS devices. But Riggs-Zeigen said the Today show shout-out also posed something of a challenge for him, as thousands of people wrongly assumed that the RockMyRun app and the company were one and the same—and that was it.

“We’ve said from the beginning that our big goal is to help people live healthier lives,” said Riggs-Zeigen, who spent more than six years at Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) before leaving to found Rock My World. He said he started the company with a far broader vision of the way sensor data could be used by consumers to promote their own health and fitness.

Riggs-Zeigen said he has raised about $2 million in early stage funding from angels and institutional investors that include the headphones maker Skullcandy, Chinese telecom ZTE, and the Seattle’s Lighter Capital. Rock My World also was admitted to the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA, and to San Diego’s downtown EvoNexus incubator. The company has been generating revenue, mostly from licensing RockMyRun’s music mixes and tempo-warping technology, he said. Over the past four years, Rock My World has grown to 17 employees.

Now Riggs-Zeigen is taking a step toward his broader vision for the company. After four years, Rock My World has rolled out a beta version of its second product—an instant messaging chatbot called Jolt.ai that targets the corporate wellness market, and is intended to motivate users to meet their own health and fitness goals.

Rock My World developed Jolt.ai for Slack, the software that enables corporate teams to share workplace messages, ideas, and other information through a variety of channels that can be customized for a variety of projects and purposes. Jolt.ai’s messaging technology is intended to keep individual team members engaged in conversations that promote healthy activity. It also can be integrated with Fitbit, Google Fit, Samsung Health, and the HealthKit software developed for the Apple Watch, Riggs-Zeigen said.

The artificial intelligence-based system incorporates sensor data from fitness devices in its messages to Slack user groups, he said. For example, Jolt.ai may send some users a mid-afternoon message that they have not yet met their daily activity goal of walking 10,000 steps. It can even suggest that certain team members walk together.

Riggs-Zeigen said Jolt.ai also can provide daily updates, offer training encouragement, and spur competition among co-workers. “What we found is that we can create an app that holds you accountable. You said you wanted to do this. Why don’t you want to do this,” Riggs-Zeigen said.

“You would be amazed at what people say when they’re talking to a computer,” he added. “One out of eight will tell the computer that they hate it. There’s literally a relationship that gets built there, ultimately to help people make healthier decisions.”

One challenge, of course, is that many users are unfamiliar with chatbots and where they can find them. So discovery is an issue. But Riggs-Zeigen expects that challenge will resolve itself as chatbots become more popular. “It feels a lot like the first apps of 2007,” he said.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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