Formula 1 fans may have noticed that many drivers do reaction training before getting into their cars at the start of a race. For some, this is as simple as working out with a trainer and some tennis balls. But you may have noticed that 2021 champion Max Verstappen has smacked some lighted pods, like a wireless version of the old Simon game from the late 1970s.
Called Blazepods, they’re Bluetooth-connected exercise lights that have their roots in an interactive playground in Israel. Blazepod’s founder developed a series of exercises for the system, such as: B. Capture the Flag and Relay Races. “It was such a success that they knew they had to make this device wireless,” said Brian Farber, director of business development at Blazepod. “And then they started to implement it [them] and to understand what the benefits were – everything from cognitive to brain-body connection, decision making, reaction time and then the actual analytics. It just took off from there.”
Blazepod offered to send Ars a kit to test, and since I was in the middle of a fitness rush and a distant part of my brain still thinks it might be a racer, I accepted the offer.
The Blazepods are heavy duty gray and blue plastic pucks approximately 3 inches in diameter. The tops are transparent and contain LEDs and a touch sensor. They stack and fit on a USB charging station and have a battery life of around 10 hours. As you’d expect, there’s a smartphone app that communicates with the pods; The app offers numerous training programs, including beep tests and reaction time training as well as balance and core exercises.
You can refine the list of activities suggested by the app by specifying what sports you are interested in – soccer, basketball, baseball, rugby, American football, racquet sports and so on. In addition, you can program your own exercises. I did this with all six pods arranged on my desk and they lit up randomly for 30 second cycles.
The benefit, according to Farber, is that it “gets the brain to fire and process something faster and more efficiently. It’s the visual stimulation – everything you do as a driver happens with your eyes, right? Yes, you have a radio and you get information, but the dangerous part is not catching things with your eye,” he said.
I’d love to say the pods have revolutionized my training regimen, but honestly I’m not that committed. The six-pack of pods are compact enough to travel with, and I’ve taken them on the road a few times. However, without accessories like suction cup mounts, there’s not much you can do other than spread them out on the floor or on a desk. My early testing was marred by the pods occasionally not registering a hit, making the response time data unreliable, but a software update seems to have addressed this issue quite well.
The performance of the pods may have improved, but I’m not sure if my reaction times have decreased, nor have I spent enough time on race sims to see if there’s any real improvement there.
When I spoke to Farber, he told me that although the technology was originally developed to let kids play, “we put in a shift very early on because we realized that what we had here was really geared towards an athlete aimed, not necessarily at a child.”
As I write this, that resonates – not because I think I’m a kid, but also because I know I’m not an athlete and therefore not really the intended user. That’s especially true given the cost — a six-pod pack starts at $329, and there’s a subscription service that lets you add more pods and activities at a cost of $14.99 per month, or $149.99 -dollars per year can share. For real athletes, trainers, coaches and fitness trainers I can see the appeal but for casual users the product is probably overkill.
Blazepod listing image