The Running Cat

Cats are great to have around, but they need exercise. If you’re not in a position to let the cat outdoors, you need to look to something else when kitty wakes up bored from her 23 hour nap. Cat playscapes are useful diversions, but this is the first time we’ve considered real exercise equipment. Let’s get our feline friends their exercise fix with a hamster-esque cat exercise wheel.

[bbarlowski]’s design is simple but very clever, and almost looks like something you’d find flat-packed at IKEA. Built of CNC-milled birch plywood, the wheel rims snap together like puzzle pieces while the floor has tabs that slot into the rims. The tension of the bent floor panels locks everything together and makes for a smart looking wheel. The video after the break shows [Kuna the Maine Coon cat] in action on the wheel, and outlines a few plans for expansion, including adding an Arduino to monitor kitty’s activity and control both an RGB LED strip for mood lighting and a cat treat dispenser for positive reinforcement of the exercise regimen.

The project mounted an unsuccessful campaign in March and they’ve made the DXF cutting files available for download. Of course if it’s too much plywood and not enough Arduino for you, just build the Arduspider to torture – err, entertain your cat.

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Cadence Meter Proves Wearable Development Is All About Just Doing It



The tech involved in the fitness world really empowers athletes, whether they’re serious or not, to improve their performance by providing empirical evidence. The Striker project focuses on cadence, which is the frequency of strides when running, or revolutions when pedaling. It uses a force sensitive resistor in the shoe to measure footfalls or power strokes.

The concept behind the device is solid, and there are consumer-grade devices already on the market that are capable of performing the same functions. In fact, a Garmin device is used to help measure the accuracy of the system. But we love to see bootstrapped projects, and this one distinguishes itself not only in finished product, but in the process itself. To us it screams: “What are you waiting for, build a prototype and then iterate!”.

The larger image above shows the earliest working version which is just a piece of fabric that wraps around the forearm to hold a 4-digit 7-segment display. The wire following the arm of the wearer snakes all the way down to the shoe to connect with the force sensor. The image to the right is the first wireless version of the readout. But the project has already seen at least two more versions after this one, mostly using SparkFun components.

We think this is but one example of the kind of stuff we want to see as contenders for The Hackaday Prize. The project uses Open Design and it’s arguably a connected device because the sensor and readout connect to each other (but ideally you’d want to add more connectivy to get at the data). The open nature of the build could lead to leaps forward in the technology by affording talented people wider development access.

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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]

Personal Energy Orb prevents your life from being swallowed by the Internets

We love the Internet, but we are definitely guilty of losing track of the time we spend traipsing around our virtual haunts. This project will not only remind you to get out and exercise, it will cripple your digital experience if you don’t heed its colorful warning.

[Janko Hofmann] calls it the Personal Energy Orb. It’s really just an Arduino and an RGB LED. But as with most creations, the idea is what makes it great. The orb has a dock next to your computer. It tracks how much time you spend online, changing colors as you rack up the hours. If you don’t heed the warning signs of overuse it will even start to slow down your mouse cursor. But never fear. Full functionality can be restored by topping off your personal energy. As you can see above, there’s also a docking station on [Janko’s] bicycle. The orb monitors your mileage, moving out of the red zone so that your computer will be unencumbered the next time you sit down for a long session of flash games. Don’t miss his video presentation embedded after the break.

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Adding a heart rate monitor to your exercise equipment

This is the readout which [Remick] added to his stationary bicycle. It displays heart rate, calories burned, and a few other items to help motivate his workout routine.

Back when he was ordering a TI Chronos watch he also picked up a heart rate chest strap and receiver. The receiver can be read using a UART, making it easy to interface with the ATmega328 which drives the system. The screen is a graphic LCD, which gave him a lot of control on how to organize the displayed data. Three buttons on the side operate the menu system into which a user can enter sex, age, and weight information. This is used to calculate the calories burned and the percentage of maximum heart rate. The three readouts to the right are for time spent in each workout zone (fat burning, fitness, or performance). The final product looks great because of the PCB he etched and the case he housed it in.

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.