Trying to read the latest bestseller while walking on a treadmill can be a challenge. But industrial engineers at Purdue University have developed a new device that adjusts words on a monitor to counteract the bobbing motion of a runner's head so that the text appears still — allowing treadmill users to read and walk at the same time.
The device, called a ReadingMate, also has adjustable font sizes, line spacing , and other features — like an e-book or tablet — that make reading while exercising a breeze.
“Not many people can run and read at the same time,” said Ji Soo Yi, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Purdue University who helped develop the device with doctoral candidate Bum chul Kwon. “This is because the relative location of the eyes to the text is vigorously changing, and our eyes try to constantly adjust to such changes, which is burdensome.”
But the ReadingMate is built to account for such movements, allowing treadmill users to read normal-size text on a small monitor mounted in front of the machine, according to a report on the device published this month in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
The user wears goggles equipped with infrared LEDs, and an infrared camera captures the LEDs, tracking the runner's bobbing head. Then the text is moved in unison with the head movement.
To test the device, researchers recruited 15 student volunteers, who performed a letter-counting task while running on a treadmill and using ReadingMate. The test required participants to count how many times the letter “F” occurred in two lines of text displayed on a computer monitor.
The research showed a higher accuracy for people who used ReadingMate compared to those who tried to perform the task without using the device.
"We also measured whether participants gave up on counting the letters because the task was too difficult," Kwon said. "We often saw people giving up without ReadingMate, especially with certain font sizes and smaller spaces between lines."
Kwon said the system’s applications go beyond health clubs and might be used by heavy equipment operators and aircraft pilots.
"Both may experience heavy shaking and turbulence while reading information from a display," he said. "ReadingMate could stabilize the content in such cases."
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