Transforming the miCoach experience into a smartwatch

Pioneering a smartwatch

Runners are a tribe of people like no other: they experience an extreme high that most people seek from something external, just by quickly treading the earth. And they don’t need much to practice their passion; they can lace up their shoes and find a route to explore. Carrying around extra devices, with an excess of cords, can be a literal drag for these weightless wanderers. But for serious runners who want to understand and track their data, from milestones to heart rate, a smart device is the next best thing to having a personal trainer with you at all times.

adidas asked Fjord to expand upon the success of their miCoach platform of smart technology to fit the lifestyle and behaviors of their runners. adidas wanted Fjord to transform the miCoach experience, from the Web and smartphone apps, to the wrist. With Fjord’s expertise in wearable technology, we hit the ground running.

The size race

adidas was keen on translating the success of the miCoach experience into a wearable device, without compromising the functionality and features they had previously designed for their online and smartphone app. That meant that Fjord would step into largely uncharted territory: there are few examples of companies successfully designing small wearable touchscreens. We quickly found, through prototyping, that the rules and tricks of designing for an iPhone or iPod touch screen don’t easily translate into designing for a stamp-sized screen.

Not only were we designing for a rare-sized screen, we needed the design to achieve extreme glanceability: the quick moment for those runners on the move and focused on their workout to glance at their device.

We curated our team of experts with experience in and a passion for designing mobile touch UIs and sports tracking devices. With their powers combined we were able to map the interactions of the existing miCoach designs and render them on a 26 x 26 mm screen. Tiny!  We worked with adidas very closely through the first round of implementation as an on-call design team that could adjust interactions in response to  user feedback, in real-time.

Crossing the finish line

As a result of all this micro-design, Fjord created a smartwatch that could be likened to having a personal trainer encouraging you from your wrist. With visual, tactile and audible coaching options, runners can easily receive performance reviews and track their training progress through visual infographics. The touch interface operates in a way that will be familiar to users, with swiping, scrolling and tapping gestures. It includes a GPS, a music player, and a variety of styled watch faces for runner’s who just want to get in their flow. Perhaps the greatest feature is the heart rate monitor, that allows users to effortlessly glance at their wrist, without the weighty disadvantage of wearing a clunky heart rate belt.

The device achieves a completely wireless solution, while retaining maximum connectivity to the miCoach service. Perhaps the biggest measure of success was during our user testing when everyone was impressed with how intuitive the design was, despite it being the first time they had operated such a small screen.

The compact design, void of cords and the extraneous bulk of a smartphone, has runners rejoicing, but the smartwatch is really meant for any athlete longing to simplify their workout accessories. Read engadget’s glowing review here.

We may have invented a new type of runner’s high.

We didn’t incorporate anything we didn’t think a runner wouldn’t need or appreciate… we left certain things out on purpose. We’re not trying to make a smartwatch, but the smartest running watch.
Paul Gaudio VP, adidas interactive