Personally, I've never understood jogging. You dress in funny clothes, run in either a bunch of small circles or one big circle or in place on a treadmill until you exhaust yourself, and then end up back where you started all sweaty and gross. But, whatever. You can make nearly any activity 100 percent better by involving a robot, which is why this robotic jogging partner is such a good idea.
Joggobot is an AR Drone that's been modified by the Exertion Games Lab at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, to act as a jogging companion. Using its onboard camera, the drone locks onto the pattern on a slightly dorkier than normal jogging shirt, and flies in front of you to set a healthy and vigorous pace and help keep you motivated:
Now that Joggobot exists, there's all kinds of ways that it could be improved. For example, you could have it upload a picture of you ever few minutes to your Facebook page to show all your friends how awesome you are (and how terrible you look while exercising). Or, you could program Joggobot to provide motivating tips (or motivating insults) whenever you start to lag behind. Worried about jogging alone at night? Joggobot could light the way and call for help if anything happens.
The most immediate improvements will likely be to Joggobot's interface. During testing, most subjects were looking for more control over the robot, like being able to use hand gestures to control speed and direction. On Joggobot's end, it might be possible to have the bot set a pace automatically based on data from a heart rate monitor, and the robot itself might be able to use gestures (like a "twitch" from side to side") to signal its user to start or stop or change speed.
So far, Joggobot has two obstacles to surmount before it can really be useful. First, there's the battery life: at just twenty minutes, you're not going to be able to get a whole lot of exercise. And second, since Joggobot is flying backwards all the time, there's nothing to stop it from running over any joggers that are slower than you. On second thought, maybe we can just call that a feature.
[ Joggobot ] via [ New Scientist ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.