Future tech: read on the treadmill with “stabilized text”


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


treadmill-readingThere’s a big conference on human-computer interaction going on in Boston right now. Not a hotbed of sports-related research, but I noticed this fantastic research project from Purdue University’s Healthcare and Information Visualization Engineering (HIVE) Lab:

ReadingMate: An Infrared-Camera-Based Content Stabilization Technique to Help Joggers Read While Running on a Treadmill.”

The contraption monitors the bobbing of your head, and makes the text that you’re trying to read bob up and down on a screen, so that it seems to you that it’s not moving at all. Seems unlikely, but…

The way the set-up works is that you wear goggles mounted with a couple of LED lights on the sides. A Wiimote equipped with an infrared camera watches the motion of the LED lights, and transmits that information to a computer. The computer uses that information to move text around on its screen in sync with your head motion, in real time.

They’ve actually built a prototype (no, this isn’t a belated April Fools’ joke, though it sure sounds like one), and ran a small pilot study with 10 users, eight of whom reported “positive experiences.” To be honest, I’ve never tried reading on a treadmill, so I don’t know if it’s a real problem. Obviously, the technology would have to be seriously refined before it could be publicly released — but in a few years, when everyone is reading on Kindles anyway, who knows?