The quest to build a better Stairmaster

[Eric Feldman] likes to use the Stairmaster in his exercise routine during the winter months. But apparently the exercisers that are designed for mere mortals don’t satisfy his need to climb stairs really, really, quickly. After mastering the upper speed limits of some top-of-the-line equipment he contacted the company asking if there was a way to unlock the software-imposed speed restriction. They laughed at him; a motivation that he used to build his own that is already five times faster. He calls it the Stairmonster, and after being tested at over 500 stairs per minute that name is quite fitting. It’s got a nice interface for choosing an exercise program and recording data from his routines. It uses an AT89C51RD2 along with a quadrature decoder and a heart rate monitor module that talks to a chest strap worn during each session. A 320×240 touchscreen gives feedback on the routine, which is altered to achieve targeted heat rates for optimum results. Nice job [Eric]!

Exercise along to Google Street View

As part of a Master’s Thesis [Lette Moloney] made this exercise bike control Google Street View. The hardware setup is quite rudimentary, two hall effect sensors mounted next to each other detect a magnet that was hot-glued to the crank. When the magnet passes the sensors an Arduino establishes if it was a forward or backward stroke based on which sensor was tripped first. From there a keystroke is issued to Google Street View to move the virtual location accordingly.

One thing we didn’t expect until we saw the video (embedded after the break) is that traversing street view is not a smooth experience. It’s more of a slide show as you exercise. Not a big deal since the hardware setup can be reused with different virtual stimuli. One thing that comes to mind is attaching a camera to the handlebars of your bike and recording your favorite rides during the warm months so that you can replay them during your indoor winter training. Of course that’s going to require some coding to marry the Arduino data to the speed of the video playback but we want to see it done anyway. Wow, image a database that would allow folks to share point-of-view videos of their rides… it’s the only way we’d ever get to see what it’s like to climb your way up Alpe_d’Huez.

We saw a slew of these stationary bike hacks a while back. If this wets your appetite, check in on one with a wearable display, another that also uses Street View, or pedaling to the top of a miniature mountain.

[Read more...]

Add supercaps to your exercise routine

Many exercise machines generate electricity as you pedal or climb in order to run the on-board electronics. Unfortunately if you stop or even slow down too much the juice will die and your exercise program will reset. Wanting to improve on this gotcha, [Mike] cracked open his exercise bike and added some super capacitors.

On the circuit board he found an ATmega128 was in charge of the user interface. He probed the board a little bit and couldn’t find how it was connected to the power regulators. After some additional snooping he found it has its own SOIC regulator separate from the ones that run the display and peripherals. He takes us through the calculations he made before choosing his parts. What he ended up with is a set of three supercaps in series that add about two minutes of juice before the levels drop and the chip resets. The design of the board helped a lot as the high-load electronics (like the LCD screen) are on a separate power bus than the processor.

Vigorous exercise keeps the tunes coming

There are cars that increase the radio volume as you drive faster, and video games that ramp up the music as your gameplay improves (we’re looking at you SSX Tricky). Now you can add that feature to your workout with [Polymithic's] Motion Feedback MP3 Player. It uses a passive infrared sensor to detect motion so there’s no need to wear any electronics. But if you used some Bluetooth headphones you could bring the system with you to the gym, just don’t exercise so hard that you blow your eardrums out.

[via Hacked Gadgets]

Bike controller for Xbox 360

ProjectExciteBike is on its second iteration of an exercise bike controller for Xbox 360. The controller takes pedal input from the cranks of the exercise bike. The sensing is handled by a ring of five hall effect sensors that detect a passing magnet attached to the crank. The sensor data is collected and processed by an Arduino which connects to a wireless Xbox 360 controller for output.

This version of the gaming device includes a fine adjustment widget. It uses a row of LEDs to represent the speed of the pedals and has a slider to adjust how much of an effect this has on the game. This is what we envisioned for the trainer computer we saw yesterday. Take a look at some game play video after the break and dig through the code if you have an exercise bike waiting to be recommissioned.

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Another stationary bike VR rig

[Shingo] shared his implementation of a stationary bike as a virtual reality interface. This is similar to the Google Street View setup we covered a week ago but goes a few steps further. They patched into the bike computer to pick up rotation of the bicycle wheel and added an accelerometer for directional control. This setup can navigate through Street View but the video after the break also details an interface with Google Earth and even the ability to navigate through Second Life, following your avatar as it bikes along with you. The use of a wearable display is far superior to something like the SurfShelf and really gives you a goal other than just some cold-weather exercise. So take this idea, patch it into a wearable computer and you’ve got the exercise setup worthy of the future world we’ve been promised.

[Read more...]

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