Sonar Enhanced Treadmill Emulates Real Experience of Walking, Running, Jogging

Many of us who attend gyms or own our own treadmills don’t look forward to their use. The experience can be awkward – from programmed pace and elevation changes or the jarring nature of simply trying to change one’s pace – treadmills, while convenient, don’t offer a realistic experience.

At the Ohio State University exercise researchers think they have this inconvenience of this modern convince figured out. They’ve developed a treadmill that uses sonar to automatically adjust the speed of the treadmill based on how far back the running is on the treadmill. If one slows down and moves toward the back the treadmill slows down, likewise if one speeds up and moves forward the treadmill increases in speed.

The new treadmill was first revealed by its creators, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Assistant Professor of Northern Kentucky University Corey Scheadler (former OSU graduate student) in a study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise.

Perhaps most interestingly, the duo used everyday ingenuity and widely available products to build their prototype. They began with an everyday sonar range finder, which is used to measure the distance between an object and the sonar device. They attached it to a micro-controller and a computer, which was connected to the circuits in the treadmill.
The sonar is set up behind the treadmill and aimed at the runner’s back, just between the shoulder blades.

When the runner is in the center of the running belt (measured from front to back), the speed of the treadmill stays the same. If the sonar senses that the runner is running further forward, that tells the device the runner is picking up speed and the sonar microcontroller sends a signal to the treadmill to speed up the belt in varying increments of speed. The speed increases until the runner returns to the middle of the belt.

If the sonar senses the runner is getting closer to the device, a signal tells the treadmill to slow down until the runner returns to the middle.

While some gym owners are probably impatiently awaiting a commercial version of this treadmill, researchers see its value as a data collecting device in the realm of exercise science.