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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Hackaday Links: December 22, 2013

hackaday-links-chain

[Korben] is using a picture frame as a Bluetooth speaker (translated). He hacked a Rock’R² for this project. It’s a device that has a vibrating element which can be used to make any hollow item into a speaker.

Entertain yourself over the holidays by mastering the Apollo Guidance Computer simulator. It’s a JavaScript version of the computer used in the modules of the Apollo moon missions.  [Thanks Gregory and Paul]

Here’s a little mirror attachment that lets you use your laptop as an overhead projector. [Ian] calls it the ClipDraw. Affix it to the webcam and use the keyboard as the drawing surface. Since it’s simply using the camera this works for both live presentations and video conferencing. What we can’t figure out is why the image doesn’t end up backward?

This guide will let you turn a Carambola board into an AirPlay speaker.

Those who suck at remembering the rules for a game of pool will enjoy this offering. It’s some add-on hardware that uses a color sensor to detect when a ball is pocketed. The Raspberry Pi based system automatically scores each game.

We spend waaaay too much time sitting at the computer. If we had a treadmill perhaps we’d try building [Kirk's] treadmill desk attachment. It’s made out of PVC and uses some altered reduction fittings to make the height adjustable. It looks like you lose a little bit of space at the front of the belt, but if you’re just using it at a walking pace that shouldn’t matter too much.

You can have your own pair of smart tweezers for just a few clams. [Tyler] added copper tape to some anti-static tweezers. The copper pads have wires soldered to them which terminate on the other end with some alligator clips. Clip them to your multimeter and you’ve got your own e-tweezers.

Browsing the web one step at a time

After modifying his new manual treadmill to fit under his standing desk, [Brian Peiris] found a way to let him stroll all over the internet.

After removing the treadmill’s original time/distance display, [Peiris] reverse engineered the speed sensor to send data to an Arduino and his PC.  We’ve seen a number of projects that interface treadmills with virtual worlds, but what really makes this project stand out is a simple script using the Throxy Python library which allows the treadmill to throttle his machine’s internet connection.

The end result is a browsing experience that reacts to how fast the user runs.  In the demonstration video, you can see Peiris tiptoe through images or jog through YouTube videos.  A minimum bandwidth setting keeps the connection live, so if you can’t make it all the way through that HD Netflix movie, taking a breather won’t time out the connection.

It’s certainly a great way to get in shape, or at the very least, it’ll make your ISP’s bandwidth cap feel a lot bigger.

Video after the jump.

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Playing the song “Still Alive” on hacked exercise equipment

Back in 2009, [Evi1wombat] pulled of this interesting hack, and it has slowly made its way through the internet to find us today. He obtained the computer from a recently deceased treadmill and decided to hack into it. Finding himself unable to flash the existing chip, he yanked it out and replaced it with something he was more familiar with, a dsPIC30F4011. Unfortunately we don’t have any pics of the inside, but he says that he had some fun with wire because the pin mapping wasn’t exactly the same. [Evi1wombat] also gained some respect for the original designer judging by  this quote from the source code:

* Damn, the dude who designed that board pulled
* some pretty nifty tricks… took a while to
* get all the drivers working.

Of course, once you have control over some nifty new hardware, the first logical thing to do on it is play “Still Alive” from the game Portal.

Enjoy the video after the break.
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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.

LEGO automatic transmissions

[AviatorBJP] is building some impressive automatic transmissions using LEGO parts. Your best bet is to check out his YouTube channel as he’s got a slew of videos related to topic. We’ve embedded test footage of first and second generation vehicles as well as the most recent flywheel design after the break. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s look at how the system works.

Each transmission centers on a mechanism that includes hinged arms attached to a central axle. The arms are held together with a rubber band but as the axle spins faster, they overcome the elastic force of the band and begin to pivot outward. This pulls the shaft in one direction, moving its gear up to the next position in the transmission box. To test the system [AviatorBJP] uses a treadmill. A string is attached to the front of the vehicle to keep it in place and the treadmill is switched on to simulate engine power.

This design is quite brilliant, and he’s not keeping it to himself. If you’ve grown tired of the manual LEGO transmission you built, you can follow his multi-video build process to make one of these for yourself.

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