Strava Uses AI to Eliminate Leaderboard Cheats; Reveals 'Family' Plan, Dark Mode and More | TechCrunch - Latest Global News

Strava Uses AI to Eliminate Leaderboard Cheats; Reveals ‘Family’ Plan, Dark Mode and More | TechCrunch

Strava announced a slew of new features and updates at its annual Camp Strava event on Thursday, as the San Francisco-based company redoubles its efforts to make its social fitness app more engaging for both free and premium subscribers – with artificial intelligence (AI). a central role.

One of the persistent complaints from the Strava community is that users sometimes cheat to achieve high rankings on the app’s leaderboards. Leaderboards are one of Strava’s core features. They are designed to stimulate competition by allowing users to challenge each other on predefined routes called “segments”. For example, cheating might involve using a motorcycle instead of a pedal bike to set a record.

Strava already has some mechanisms in place for users to manually flag dubious leaderboard activity, and last year the company updated its algorithms to “make leaderboards more credible.” This included holding back activities that may have been mislabeled (such as users labeling a run as a bike ride) or that may have involved erroneous GPS data.

Strava says it will now begin using more sophisticated machine learning to detect “questionable” activities as they are uploaded to the platform and automatically remove those activities. The company says it achieves this by training its algorithms on millions of historical activities to better understand what “normal” activity looks like.

Apparently this is one of Strava’s most requested features, with a quick look at the enthusiastic online community revealing various ideas for dealing with the so-called “digital doping” problem.

Strava: Leaderboard integrity through AI
Photo credit: Strava

When pressed to provide more details on how this works and how exactly it differs from existing automated leaderboard health tools, Chief Product Officer Matt Salazar simply said that it was a “step change” in nature and The way Strava uses AI, machine learning, etc. other technologies to “fill gaps.”

“Last year, the team implemented new logic rules into existing auto-tagging tools, and now we are leveraging newer technologies to deliver one of our most requested features by athletes,” Salazar said in a statement released to TechCrunch.

Similarly, Strava on Thursday announced the private beta of a feature called “Athlete Intelligence,” which is a generative AI that analyzes user data to create summaries and notes about their performance and fitness goals. This is only available to Premium subscribers.

Strava wouldn’t confirm whether the underlying engine is one of OpenAI’s GPT-X models or something else, but Salazar said the company is currently experimenting with different technologies before a broader rollout.

“We have looked at several models and tools and are currently applying a model that works for the beta,” Salazar said. “We continue to evaluate what will provide the best outcome for our community.”

Stravas "Intelligence of an athlete"
Strava’s “Athlete Intelligence”
Photo credit: Strava

Strava is also introducing dark mode, which is the app’s second most requested feature by number of votes, according to data from the Strava Community Hub.

This has been a long time coming, certainly compared to other popular apps – just last week WhatsApp went so far as to launch an even “darker” dark mode.

Nevertheless: better late than never. Strava says it will introduce dark mode “later this summer,” with the ability to keep the app in dark mode permanently or configure it to match the device settings. This will be available for both premium and free users at launch.

Strava's new dark mode
Strava’s new dark mode
Photo credit: Strava

It’s (not necessarily) a family affair

Similar to other online subscription services like Spotify, Strava is now pushing a so-called “Family Plan” to attract mass sign-ups through subscription discounts and get more people to use the platform. Up to four people, including the primary subscriber, can be included in a family plan.

But the term “family plan” is actually a bit misleading here, as it doesn’t necessarily include actual family members or even everyone who lives at the same address. It can be anyone living in the same country.

“It will provide Strava athletes with more ways to continue to find and experience motivation, and it will also be more cost-effective,” Salazar said. “The great thing about this new annual subscription is that you choose who is part of your family plan – it could be your friends, your running team or your teammates.”

In this context, it makes sense to play liberally with the definition of “family,” since families don’t consume Strava in the same way they consume Netflix or Spotify. However, the name of the plan may confuse some users as to who is eligible for coverage. Maybe a “group subscription” or something along those lines would make more sense.

Strava family plan
Strava family plan
Photo credit: Strava

In any case, Strava is still a bit tight-lipped on the details, including the size of this volume discount (it says the percentage savings varies by country), how to share your subscription, and what happens in the event of a “family” fallout – For example, can a member of a group easily keep their own account and data?

The new plan will launch in “select countries” this summer, starting with Australia and Canada, with a broader international rollout later this year.

These announcements come at a turbulent time for Strava. Co-founder Michael Hovrath recently stepped down from his position as CEO for the second time and was replaced by former YouTube executive Michael Martin in January. The company also hired a new chief technology officer (CTO) last month alongside Salazar, who left Epic Games to join Strava as chief product officer.

The news also comes a year after Strava introduced a new premium pricing structure that drew significant criticism for its lack of transparency.

However, it’s clear that Strava is trying to strengthen its value proposition for users by adopting some tried-and-true tricks from the broader social networking space. The importance of Strava’s social positioning cannot be understated when it comes to standing out from other data-centric fitness tracking services like Apple Fitness or Garmin. That’s why Strava introduced in-app messaging last year to foster communities that exist entirely within Strava without relying on third-party messaging apps like WhatsApp to organize events and outings.

These new updates build on that, combining free features that everyone gets with premium features for power users.

Demographics

One way Strava can attract new users is by broadening its appeal to different demographics. That’s exactly what the company is doing with an upcoming new feature that builds on the existing Global Heatmaps feature and highlights the most well-trodden running, riding and walking routes.

When the “Night Heatmaps” launch later this year, they will go one step further and specifically focus on activities that occur between sunset and sunrise areas. Strava hopes this will help encourage more women to use the platform, although in reality it will appeal to anyone who wants to avoid quieter places in the early hours of the morning.

“Studies show that women of all ages exercise significantly less often than men and, despite their desire to be active, find less time overall for an active lifestyle,” Strava wrote in a blog post accompanying the announcements. “As the company continues its mission to motivate people to live their most active lives, building the platform for women will ultimately benefit all members of the Strava community.”

Additionally, not everyone wants to share all of their activity data with everyone all the time. As a result, Strava announced that it will be introducing a new “Quick Edit” feature that will allow users to more easily hide certain metrics from their workout stats, type of activity performed, location, and more.

While “Quick Edit” will be free, Strava says nighttime heatmaps will be a premium feature, meaning anyone who wants to see which routes are the safest after dark will pay $12 per month or You have to cough up $80 a year to access it.

Strava would not confirm how many of its 125 million members are active users or what the gender breakdown is. But the company previously reported that women are “23% less likely than men to record any type of activity before sunrise and 8% less likely to do so after sunset.”

But Salazar said certain demographics are showing signs of growth on the platform.

“While we don’t provide specifics about the Strava community as a whole, we can share that our Gen Z women user group has seen strong growth globally and in the U.S., doubling what we’ve seen so far.” “That was last This time of year,” he said.

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