IMG_4707.jpgThere’s not much to a skipping rope; a couple of handles with some cord in between them will do the job for most people. You can have weighted ropes, weighted handles, contoured handles, ropes that have a counter built in, measuring how many times you have jumped by recording each turn. So what should a smart rope be?

What is a “smart rope”?

If I were designing a smart rope there are a few things that it should do:

  • record my jumps
  • have an app to keep track of that data
  • share that data with Apple Health (or other electronic health record stuff on your phone or tablet)

Tangram, with the Sart Rope, has done exactly that. It has a built in battery that powers the hardware; that hardware records how many jumps you’ve taken and reports it back to the Smart Rope app, which is available for iOS and Android.

The app (Smart Gym) is actually pretty slick; it DOES tie in with Apple Health (one of my number one things that I look for in any health or fitness related product), and has its own account that it lets you sync and record your data. It also allows you to set a daily goal for yourself (it started at 1500 rotations, which is more than I usually do to warm up but it’s a great way to start pushing yourself) and there’s a bit of a social network built in that encourages you to compete against friends and family by inviting them to try it out.

 So this thing checks off all of my baseline requirements for what I’d consider to be a smart rope… with one more thing. The Smart Rope has 23 LEDs integrated into the middle of rope. This makes it a bit challenging to use as that section is stiffer than the usual rope, which can be a hassled if you’re used to a more flexible rope being able to respond to how you use it. If you’re  used to double-unders and side-swipes you will definitely need to learn how to handle this additional challenge.

But LEDs! Why on earth would you want 23 LEDs built into a skipping rope? Well, it’s one of the coolest features out there. The LEDs flash on and off in a very specific pattern; that pattern is synced up to the rotation of the rope; as it moves it writes a number in thin air. The number is how many consecutive jumps you’ve managed to accomplish, showing your record for the day right in front of you. It’s a revolutionary (hah!) feature that allows you to concentrate on your form and speed, without having to look up or around to find second on a digital time or the second hand on a clock.

 It’s awesome, and it’s actually a reason to own this thing.


Smart Rope out of the box

The Smart Rope comes in a flat, square box that’s about 8” across and about 3” deep. Inside you’ll find some paperwork that describes the latest software and how to download it, as well as outlining the feature; below that is a nylon bag that the rope is in. I didn’t have a microUSB cable in the box I received, so be aware that you’ll need one to charge it. I have dozens around the house, so after pulling it out of the box I popped the end cap off where the power button is and slotted a cable of my own into the end of the handle. Tangram says that the battery of the Smart Rope will last 36 consecutive days of working out; after using it for over a week I can’t see any signs of that being false. The battery life on this thing is long.

I did have to hang the unit up for a day before being able to use it well; there was too much coil in the cable and it kept bending under my shoes as I skipped.

The handles are round, comfortable, and feel weighty in your hands. The rope extends at a 45º angle from them, and it rotates smoothly as your jump. I had a great deal of difficulty jumping well when I had my running shoes on, but when I swapped for sneakers (for boxing practice) I was able to skip easily. My thought here is that the additional width of the rope isn’t something I’m used to, and that combined with the flared edge of the shoe made it difficult to get a consistent rhythm going.

Numbers float in midair as you skipNumbers float in midair as you skip

Smart Rope? You bet

I have to say that I really like the Smart Rope…so much so that now that I’ve had to send it on to our French blogger I’m buying one of my own. Skipping is an integral part of my workouts, and being able to gamify it for myself makes me more willing to push myself to do more. All in all it’s a smart investment in my cardio fitness–which is why I now have one on the way. Hurry up, Best Buy!

Graham Williams
Graham Williams is a Canadian tech expert, appearing on CBC and Global BC, as well as teaching a number of courses at UBC in Vancouver, British Columbia. An avid gamer, Graham can be found on Steam and PSN, as well as online as a host of MOMENTOUS.TV