Friday, April 15, 2011

Massachusetts Institute of (Running) Technology

Today's workout (elliptical): 23 minutes

I'm back in NY so last night I thought I'd do a morning run in my neighborhood. When I got up I considered my mild cold and decided to do an indoor workout instead. It had been over a week since I'd cross trained so I did a shorter than normal elliptical session that generated a good sweat. If the weather is clear this weekend I'll try for a long base run as I train for the half marathon that's happening in three Sundays from now.

My visit to the Media Lab was enlightening as usual and I came upon a couple of interesting activity related projects. The Cardio Cam, from the Affective Computing Lab, is a mirror with a webcam mounted at the top. You position yourself so that your face is centered in a frame that's superimposed on the mirror. After a couple of seconds, large numbers appear on the lower right that show your heart rate. It's as simple as that. The webcam images your face and the algorithm calculates your heart rate based on a spectral analysis of your image samples -- or as they put it "Non-contact, automated cardiac pulse measurements using video imaging and blind source separation." The display showed my pulse just a bit under 60, which would be right for me under normal conditions.

A project that came out of the Speech & Mobility group used location tracking on a smartphone that feeds a narrative that plays while a person runs. In the demo, a runner plays an adventure game by listening to instructions that tell him where to run and turn to perform steps in the game. The app was written by a grad student who was bored running the same old streets of his neighborhood. Sounds familiar. I wanted to try it but it's Android only. Another reason to dump the iPhone!

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