Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reading and running

Ask anyone and they will tell you the same thing. I've never been too fond of outdoor sports. My dislike probably dates back to my time at school in England, where all the lads were required to take part in rather rough games of "rugger"” three times a week.

Nevertheless, I can certainly see the advantage of giving the heart and muscles a good old work out in the comfort of my own home on one of those new fangled running machines.

But the problem with those running machines is that, up until now, it’s been impossible to partake in anything more intellectual -- like reading a treatise on how to program computer vision systems with Python -- whilst pounding away on the treadmill.

Thankfully though, some rather clever chaps at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN, USA) have now come up with a solution to this problem. That's right. They have developed a system called "Readmate" that allows treadmill users to read text on a small monitor mounted in front of the machine while they are exercising.

To do so, a user must first don a pair of goggles equipped with infrared LEDs. An infrared camera can then track the runner's bobbing head by capturing images from the LEDs. Then the text on the screen is moved in unison with the head movement.

According to Ji Soo Yi, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Purdue, the text cannot be moved exactly in synch with the head because the eye is already doing what it can to compensate. So the system accounts for that compensation by moving the text slightly out of synch with the head motion.

While the new system could prove to be a boon for those who get easily bored by endlessly running on the same spot, it also might be used by heavy equipment operators and aircraft pilots who experience heavy shaking and turbulence while reading information from a display.

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