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3 exciting features coming to Strava this year – including AI route creation

 Strava
Strava

Strava has announced a slate of new features, and an overhaul of several key existing ones, during the keynote at its annual Camp Strava event. Whether you’re a keen cyclist, a dedicated skier, or you just like using your best running watch to upload your times to the platform, you’re not going to want to miss what’s in store.

Chief among the announcements is Strava’s early adoption of AI, which we’ll dig into in a minute, but it’s far from the only new feature on the way: group challenges are receiving an overhaul, and the implementation of Fatmaps means you’ll be seeing your favorite routes in beautiful 3D. It’s enough to get anyone excited to lace up a pair of the best running shoes and hit the road or the trail.

Below, you can see the full 45-minute keynote speech that featured several key members of the Strava leadership team, including Strava’s outgoing CEO Michael Horvath, and the technical bit from Misha Gopaul, the founder of digital mapping service FATMAP, which has been recently acquired by Strava.

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing (after all, you’ve got runs, rides, swims and trails to tackle) we’ve picked out the most exciting features that should be arriving this year.

1. AI route creation

Strava route mapping
Strava route mapping

First and foremost, Strava is the latest platform to integrate with some sort of AI. Gopaul says AI will drive the way people will create and select new routes on the app, although he wasn't very clear on the how or why.

In the keynote, Gopaul said: “It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting the tarmac or the trail, we’re going to update our route planning this year, powered by AI, to generate really great routes anywhere in the world in just one click.”

Gopaul says AI will be used to calculate the “best route” for users, not just the shortest or fastest one, based on community data and the questions users want to know the answer to. It’ll show you the most popular routes, as well as new routes in the same area, as the app will remember the routes you’ve followed in the past so that it can, as far as possible, show you something new each time.

There are other considerations, too: Gopaul highlights a skiing map in Switzerland based on the official Swiss map, which also incorporates areas to avoid in case of avalanche risk. How this is all going to work together is unclear at this stage, but based on what I’ve seen of ChatGPT, I’m not sure I’d want to risk an AI steering me into a rockfall. We should know more by the end of the year.

2. 3D flyover maps

FATMAP on Strava
FATMAP on Strava

Gopaul also showed off what this digital mapping was going to look like on Strava, treating the keynote’s audience to a lovely 3D mountain flyover. A dedicated, detailed 3D maps experience allows you to see your routes like never before.

The technology is designed to make routes easier to understand, with more detailed flyover maps allowing you to physically see the routes you’ll be tackling before you get there, in fully immersive 3D. This is described as “a local knowledge map” and is updated automatically every day.

Heat maps can tell you the most popular routes and the most recent ones, so if popular routes change by weather or season you’re immediately clued up on the best way to go. This is actually already available to Strava subscribers in the existing FATMAP app, and will be on the Strava platform by the end of 2023.

3. Improved groups and challenges

Strava clubs
Strava clubs

Strava has also revolutionized its Groups and Challenges features, stepping into the void recently vacated by Fitbit, which has gutted both features. Groups are now more open, and less based around leaderboards; instead, it’s designed around community, functioning a bit like a Facebook event page, and you can post images, videos, new routes, and comments in the group, treating it like a hub.

You can choose a route and invite group members to take it on with you. If they accept, they automatically get sent route information via Strava, including any images and videos attached to that route in the Strava app.

Route collections are also a new part of this. Brands, resorts, and individuals can publish themed collections of routes, such as all your favorite multi-day hikes in any given area. Disgruntled former best Fitbit users displaced by Google’s axing of their favorite features might well find a new home here.