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One start-up is giving fitness enthusiasts a way to see their muscles from biceps to abs like they've never seen them before.
"In a market that's filled with activity trackers and heart rate monitors, we've built the first system that looks inside your body and gives you actionable advice," said Jose Bohorquez, co-founder of Skulpt.
Bohorquez's invention is a palm-sized device called the Chisel. When it's rubbed on a muscle like your calf within seconds it pumps out data on the quality of the muscle and even percentage of fat.
Bohorquez, an electrical engineer at MIT, collaborated with neurologist Dr. Seward Rutkove to pack the hand-held tech with what they say is serious medical-grade science called electrical impedance myography. Rutkove originally developed EIM to measure and quantify the muscle health of patients with neuromuscular disorders, such as ALS.
"We realized EIM could be helpful to anyone trying to maintain, improve and track their fitness," Bohorquez told CNBC. In 2009 he and Rutkove launched Skulpt, intergrating EIM into a hand-held body scanner and free mobile app also called Skulpt.
Users can hold the Chisel against 24 different muscle groups for a reading, the Skulpt app then converts the data and offers personalized fitness programs and nutrition plans tailored to a user's physiology.
"With advice that's rooted in medical science, consumers can optimize their workout time and get real results efficiently and reliably," said Bohorquez.
The Chisel hand-held body scanner retails for $99 and is available on the company's website.
But angel investor Nat Burgess questioned the accuracy of the device's EIM reading.
Bohorquez said the technology is a result of 16 years of research and development and the company can point to studies that validate the accuracy.
Competing in a market saturated with fitness gadgets, David Wu, partner at Maveron, wondered where the company sees itself in the future.
"You can count how many steps you're taking, and that's great. Or see how your heart rate is changing. But, ultimately, you want to know if you're getting results," said Bohorquez.
So rather than expanding Skulpt's technology to other hardware devices, Bohorquez told CNBC the start-up is focused on improving its personalized coaching platform, offering users "very tailored, personalized programs that go beyond the standard [fitness] programs."
In the long run, Skulpt also plans to launch a subscription service with specialized sports training programs. "If someone wants to be a faster swimmer, and Skulpt recognizes their upper back and shoulders are weaker than they need to be for optimal performance, the program will emphasize strengthening those muscles in parallel with typical training," said Bohorquez.
Since its launch, the San Francisco-based start-up has raised a total of $8.1 million in funding. Key investors include venture capital firm Caerus Ventures, Fort Point Angels and Nautilus Venture Partners.
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