Low Budget Omnidirectional Treadmill

Omni-treadmill

Moving around in space is one of the major hurdles in virtual reality. A holodeck wouldn’t be much fun if you kept walking into walls.  [Gamnaught] is working on a simple solution to this complex problem with his budget omnidirectional treadmill. Omnidirectional treadmills have been around in various forms for a number of years. The idea behind them simple: allow a person walk in any direction without actually changing their position. This is a bit different from the unidirectional treadmill models found at the local gym. Some very complex solutions have been used to create omnidirectional treadmills, including multiple motors and computer control systems as can be found in the US Army omnidirectional treadmill.  [Gamnaught] kept it simple. He built a circular 2×4 platform 13-15 degree bowl. The bowl is covered with carpet, and the user wears furniture sliders on their shoes. The low friction of the sliders allows the user to walk, run, and even walk backwards on the platform. Bungie cords provide resistance so the user doesn’t walk off the platform.

The early results look promising. [Gamnaught] says the balance felt a bit weird at times and took some getting used to. Anyone who has spent time with the Oculus Rift or other VR systems will tell you – many aspects of virtual reality take some getting used to. The treadmill is still open loop, however [Gamnaught] hopes to add motion tracking with a Sixense STEM system. We think a OpenCV based system would work as well. We’ve also seen carpet sliders sold as a children’s toy to be strapped over regular sneakers. Going the toy route would avoid needing a dedicated pair of footwear for the treadmill. More build information can be found on [Gamnaught’s] Reddit thread on the topic.

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Make Your Treadmill More Entertaining for $0

Treadmill Computer

Treadmills can often be found on the side of the road, after someone gave up on their running regimen and found that the machine was taking up too much space in their basement. This is great for hackers, since they have some useful parts in them.

However, if you’d like to actually use a treadmill for running, some entertainment would certainly help. [KingJackOff] decided to roll his own treadmill entertainment system out of things he had lying around, bringing the total cost to $0.

He took an old laptop and mounted it in a piece of rigid foam using a gratuitous amount of duct tape. With the screen and keyboard mounted, he added speakers and a slot for the DVD drive. Then a printed graphic was taped to the front, with a nice motivational message.

Lots of people have old laptops lying around with mechanical issues. Broken hinges and frames make them unusable, even though the electronics are fine. Some foam and paper could be all you need to bring one back to life.

[via Reddit]

Dual-monitor work stations aims to keep you on the treadmill longer

In an effort keep his workout schedule on track [Jamie] built himself this dual-screen treadmill work station. He picked up the treadmill for about $50 on eBay, and after some follies with its shoddy construction, ended up with a pretty nice setup.

The first rendition of this project was just a wooden shelf to hold a laptop. But after the treadmill fell apart, sending his laptop tumbling, he reinforced the machine and added a bunch of stuff in the process. There’s now some custom electronics used to track his progress. He painted a white square on the black belt that makes up the running surface. That is monitored by a PIC microcontroller via a phototransistor and op-amp. He uses a USB data acquisition card to feed the belt-revolution count to the computer for use in tracking his workouts.

The presence of a computer in his setup would make Internet logging a snap too. The exercise bike we looked at on Saturday used a direct Ethernet connection for its logging, but [Jamie’s] setup could be used in the same way. He just needs a script to bridge the collected data with an Internet logging site’s API.

Quick and easy Street View treadmill

This is [Thomas Clauser’s] Google Street View enabled treadmill. He points out that most of the Street View hacks use a measurement of rotational movement to interface with a computer. He respects that but didn’t want to take the time to make it work with his treadmill. Instead, he used a stealth switch propped up on a book below the treadmill frame, but any switch can be used as long as you know how to connect it to the computer. When you stand on the treadmill the frame flexes and almost clicks the button, but when you start running it moves the rest of the ways and closes the switch. From there an autohotkey script is used to advance Street View.

World Of Warcraft on a treadmill


[Aaron Rasmussen] and his friend [Eli] slapped together this setup to see what it would be like to run as much as their World of Warcraft characters. They used a couple old treadmills to spin some tires with makeshift mouse sensors on them. As their speed increased, so did their character. There was a decent amount of math done to figure the average speed of a World of Warcraft character, and ultimately they settled on 12 miles per hour. Not surprisingly, they found that too difficult due to the resistance in the rig as well as being out of shape. They ended up lowering the speed required to make their character go full sprint to 6 miles per hour.

Their final conclusion was that they could never run as much as their digital counterparts. Even if they were in really good shape. [Aaron] does say that it was fun enough to consider doing it regularly as a workout plan. He should wear the costume every time he uses it.

STEAM Carnival Hacker Preview Day

Last week we wrote about the guys over at TwoBitCircus and their upcoming STEAM Carnival. This Thursday we managed to make it down to the Hacker Preview day where they showed us all the toys and games that will be exhibited over the weekend.

The preview day went pretty well until the evening, when unexpected power problems occurred and the site lost power for a little while. But this is why you have a preview day right? Organizer [Brent Bushnell] even commented that he should have put a BETA badge on the ticket. Thankfully the outage coincided with the food truck arriving so everyone stopped for a burger.

Sadly all the fire based pieces were not active on the preview day since they didn’t have the appropriate safety measures in place yet, but they did get to show us most of their games. My personal favorites were the Hobby Horse Racing, and the Laser Foosball.

Here’s a quick run down of some of the stand out pieces.

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