Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

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Strava on Thursday introduced a slew of recent options and updates at its annual Camp Strava occasion, because the San Francisco-headquartered firm doubles down on efforts to make its social health app stickier each without cost and premium subscribers — with synthetic intelligence (AI) taking part in a central position.

One of many perennial complaints emanating from the Strava group is that customers generally cheat to realize lofty leaderboard positions on the app. Leaderboards are considered one of Strava’s core options, designed to stir competitors by permitting customers to problem one another over predefined routes referred to as “segments.” Dishonest would possibly contain one thing like utilizing a motorcycle or e-bike slightly than a pedal bike to set a report, as an illustration.

Strava already has some mechanisms in place to let customers manually flag doubtful leaderboard exercise, and final yr, the corporate up to date its algorithms to “make leaderboards extra credible.” That included withholding actions that will have been incorrectly labeled (e.g., customers tagging a run as a motorcycle journey), or the place defective GPS information is perhaps at play.

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Now Strava says it’ll begin utilizing extra subtle machine studying to detect “questionable” actions once they’re uploaded to the platform and robotically take away mentioned actions. The corporate says it’s doing so by coaching its algorithms on tens of millions of historic actions to raised perceive what “regular” exercise seems like.

Apparently, that is considered one of Strava’s most-requested options, with a fast look at its fervent on-line group revealing numerous concepts on cope with the “digital doping” drawback.

Strava: Leaderboard integrity powered by AI
Picture Credit: Strava

When pushed to offer extra particulars on how this works, and the way precisely it differs from its current automated leaderboard integrity tooling, chief product officer Matt Salazar merely mentioned that it’s a “step-change” in how Strava is utilizing AI, machine studying, and different applied sciences to “shut gaps.”

“Final yr, the group carried out new logic guidelines to current auto-flagging instruments, and now, we’re leveraging newer applied sciences to ship considered one of our most requested options from athletes,” Salazar mentioned in a press release issued to everydayai.

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On the same notice, Strava on Thursday introduced the non-public beta of a function it’s calling “athlete intelligence,” which quantities to generative AI that analyzes consumer information to create summaries and steerage on their efficiency and health targets. This will likely be obtainable to premium subscribers solely.

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Strava wouldn’t affirm whether or not the underlying engine is considered one of OpenAI’s GPT-X fashions or one thing else, however Salazar did say the corporate is presently experimenting with totally different applied sciences forward of a broader rollout.

“We have now a number of fashions and instruments that we have now checked out and presently utilized a mannequin that works for the beta,” Salazar mentioned. “We’re persevering with to guage what’s going to present one of the best end result for our group.”

Strava’s “athlete intelligence.”
Picture Credit: Strava

Strava can be introducing darkish mode, which, in response to information on the Strava Group Hub, is the app’s second most desired function by variety of votes.

This has been a very long time coming, actually in comparison with different common apps — simply final week, WhatsApp went as far as to launch a good “darker” darkish mode.

Nonetheless, higher late than by no means. Strava says it’ll introduce darkish mode “later this summer time,” with the power to maintain the app completely in darkish mode or configure it in order that it matches the system settings. This will likely be obtainable to each premium and free customers when it launches.

Strava’s new darkish mode.
Picture Credit: Strava

It’s (not strictly) a household affair

Just like different on-line subscription companies resembling Spotify, Strava is now throwing its weight behind what it calls a “household plan” to entice bulk sign-ups via subscription reductions and get extra folks utilizing the platform. As much as 4 folks, together with the first subscriber, will be included in a single household plan.

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However “household plan” is definitely one thing of a misnomer right here, because it doesn’t have to incorporate precise members of the family and even anybody dwelling on the identical tackle. It may be anybody who lives in the identical nation.

“It should create extra alternatives for Strava athletes to proceed discovering and experiencing motivation, and make it more cost effective too,” Salazar mentioned. “The good a part of this new annual subscription is that you just select who’s a part of your loved ones plan — it may be your mates, working crew or teammates.”

Enjoying liberally with the definition of “household” on this context does make sense, on condition that households received’t eat Strava in the identical approach as they may Netflix or Spotify. However the identify of the plan would possibly confuse some customers when it comes to who qualifies for protection. Maybe “group subscription plan” or one thing to that impact would possibly make extra sense.

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Strava household plan.
Picture Credit: Strava

At any price, Strava continues to be just a little cagey on the main points, together with how a lot this bulk low cost will quantity to (it does say the proportion financial savings will differ by nation), how one goes about sharing their subscription, and what occurs within the occasion of a “household” fallout — can one member of a gaggle simply preserve their very own account and information, for instance?

The brand new plan will kick off in “choose nations” this summer time, beginning with Australia and Canada, with a broader worldwide rollout following later within the yr.

These bulletins come at a turbulent time for Strava. Co-founder Michael Horvath not too long ago stepped down from the CEO place for the second time and was changed in January by former YouTube govt Michael Martin. The corporate additionally final month procured a brand new chief expertise officer (CTO) alongside Salazar, who left Epic Video games to hitch Strava as chief product officer.

The information additionally follows a yr after Strava launched a brand new premium pricing construction that drew appreciable criticism over its lack of transparency.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that Strava is attempting to bolster its worth proposition for customers, borrowing some tried-and-true tips from the broader social networking sphere. The significance of Strava’s social positioning can’t be understated when it comes to differentiating it from different data-centric health monitoring companies resembling Apple Health or Garmin. This is the reason Strava rolled out in-app messaging final yr, meant to foster communities that exist totally inside Strava with out having to depend on third-party messaging apps like WhatsApp to arrange occasions and outings.

These new updates construct on that, mixing free options that everybody will get with premium options for energy customers.

Demographics

A method Strava can entice new customers is by broadening its attraction to totally different demographics. It’s doing simply that with an upcoming new function that builds on its current world heatmaps function, which highlights probably the most well-trodden working, driving, and strolling routes.

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Taking issues a step additional, “evening heatmaps,” when it launches later this yr, will focus particularly on actions that occur between sunset and dawn, which is perhaps helpful for these involved about going out for a stroll or a jog in less-trafficked areas. This, Strava hopes, will assist encourage extra girls to start out utilizing the platform, although in actuality it’ll attraction to anybody wishing to keep away from quieter locations within the wee hours.

“Research present that girls of all ages take part in sports activities at a far decrease price than males, and general, regardless of desirous to be lively, discover much less time to dedicate to an lively way of life,” Strava wrote in a weblog put up accompanying the bulletins. “As the corporate continues on its mission to encourage folks to stay their greatest lively lives, constructing for girls on the platform will finally serve everybody within the Strava group.”

On high of that, not everybody desires to share all their exercise information with everybody on a regular basis. Thus, Strava mentioned it’ll launch a brand new “fast edit” function that lets customers extra simply conceal sure metrics from their exercise stats, the kind of exercise they did, their location, and extra.

Whereas “fast edit” will likely be free, Strava says that evening heatmaps will likely be a premium function, that means that anybody desirous to see what the most secure routes are after darkish should pony up $12/month or $80/yr to entry this.

Strava wouldn’t affirm what number of of its 125 million members are lively customers, or what the gender cut up is. However the firm beforehand reported that girls are “23% much less doubtless than males to report any sort of exercise pre-sunrise, and eight% much less doubtless to take action post-sunset.”

However Salazar mentioned that sure demographics are displaying indicators of progress on the platform.

“While we don’t present actual particulars on the Strava group as an entire, what we are able to share is that globally and within the U.S., our user-demographic of Gen Z girls has skilled nice progress, taking it to twice that of what it was right now final yr,” he mentioned.

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