WebRTC & Wello: An Interview With Amol Kher

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Amol Kher: Wello

December 2012

Fitness training over the web.

Wello provides personalized online video fitness training. It started out using Flash and then shifted to WebRTC.

[If you are new around here, then you should know I’ve been writing about WebRTC lately. You can skim through the WebRTC post series or just read what WebRTC is all about.]

Wello is an interesting company. And that’s because of 3 reasons:

  1. They have opted for going into the video calling market, but instead of going the OTT route for consumers, or taking the enterprise route of video conferencing solutions they chose an interesting vertical to tackle – fitness.
  2. They used to use Flash and shifted to WebRTC recently.
  3. They rely on a third party for the heavy lifting of video calling – AddLive (a company I should also interview one of these days).

When I learned about Wello, I knew I had to get their viewpoint. Amol Kher, Wello’s CTO, agreed to answer a few questions I had.

 

What is Wello all about?

Wello is a place where people go to find a personal trainer of their choice and then workout with them over live interactive video. Wello wants to get people healthier by helping them create a healthy workout regimen and then keep them on track with our video technology and our amazing trainers who are live. We do this by removing traditional pain points of having to drive to a gym or needing equipment at home or not having someone monitor or track your progress.

 

What got you to select fitness and personal training as the video calling service you offer?

We selected Fitness because it is a huge market and also a viable option over video (WebRTC) as people get very comfortable with interacting over video.

 

Why not Skype? Your service seems something that can fit such an OTT vendor.

With Skype, we would not be part of the conversation and hence not be able to track users and hold them accountable unless we built custom applications for each native operating system, which is costly. With WebRTC, we can keep track of what is going on through a web interface and hence better track usage. This also enables us to automatically pay trainers when sessions are conducted over our platform. In future, we could also offer tools for form correction and overlays to help our members get even more from their workouts.

 

You recently switched from Flash to WebRTC. Why?

While Flash is ubiquitous, we had a lot of complaints from our users about audio quality. While video is important, not having audio is a deal breaker. Because the Flash plugin we used works over TCP, there is quite a bit of latency. We switched to a WebRTC plugin which works over UDP which is not reliable, but works better for real-time communication applications.

 

How well has the switch to WebRTC worked for you?

Within a month after the switch, feedback from our members has been overwhelmingly positive and in many ways the technology is not a discussion at all. Now we can focus on the actual features completely rather than worrying about audio and video quality.

 

What are the changes you see now that you use WebRTC and not Flash?

The positives as mentioned above is that audio and video quality is now assumed to be good, there is not much discussion. The downside is that users have to install a plugin. While we have not seen any drop, we are always concerned when users have to do one extra step. But for the most of our members who want to work out to get healthy, installing a plugin is not that big a deal in the larger scheme of things.

 

I noticed you only offer a PC version. Are there plans on supporting tablets or even smartphones? What are the challenges with such mobile devices for you?

We are dependent on our plugin provider here and we will offer it once they have a stable release. A lot of our users enjoy the convenience of working out from their home so mobile has been less of a use case for us.

 

Any future plans for Wello?

We are working on the ability to conduct group workouts. You workout with your friends or meet new people over a workout. We are incredibly excited because it makes the offering even more affordable and fun. Working out with your friends is always fun. We already support multiple people in a workout from a video UI interface.

The interviews are intended to give different viewpoints than my own – you can read more interviews on my WebRTC resource page.

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