Hand-held exercise maker raising funds

A Reno company that has already garnered the attention of Gov. Brian Sandoval and the national media has turned to Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to manufacture its first product.

TAO-Wellness is closing in on raising $100,000 via the crowdfunding Web site to begin production of the TAO WellShell, a handheld device for doing isometric exercises while it measures and records a user’s results.

The company, which relocated from Sunnyvale, Calif., to Reno in 2012, is on its eighth prototype, testing versions by producing them using a 3D printer and adding in-house designed circuit boards. An earlier version was nominated for a best in show award at the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, where Gov. Sandoval took it for a test drive.

The device was designed by Kosta Yanev, TAO-Wellness co-founder and chief executive officer. He’s a nuclear physicist who was worried about getting enough exercise while constantly traveling for work.

“Because he’s a nuclear physicist and has developed control systems for energy companies and factories, he decided to make a miniaturized control system,” says Philo Northrup, TAO-Wellness co-founder and president. “Now we have two patents issued and 11 more in the pipeline.”

Northrup describes the device as something between a cell phone and computer mouse in terms of shape and size. Users grip it between their hands or hands and legs and arms, or between their knees, to perform isometric exercises the company calls Variobics. The device sends data via Bluetooth to an Android-based phone or Apple Inc. iOS-based device running a free application from TAO-Wellness. In addition to measuring and recording force/pressure used during exertion, it also keeps tracks a user’s calories burned, heart rate, distance walked or run and speed.

The company plans to manufacture the TAO WellShell in California and be ready to ship the product by October. New models are scheduled to be unveiled at next year’s CES trade show.

Northrup says it’s much easier to demonstrate the exercise device than describe it.

“All the people that tried the TAO WellShell are big fans,” he says. “We’re trying to develop more fans for it between now and then.”


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