Racing with Robots

Ready, Set, Joggobot!

Running can be a challenging activity to get into and keep up. Whether it’s a friend or canine pal acting as a running buddy, the company often provides us with the motivation needed to push ourselves further or to get us out there on days when we’d rather not lace up those trainers. But since not everyone has a dog or an active friend, researchers at the Exertion Games Laboratory at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have recently created the Joggobot so you won’t have to be the lone ranger out there on the track!

The idea behind the Joggobot is relatively simple. Researchers took a flying quadrotor robot which was already commercially available and enabled it with a camera and marker tracking software. Then they made special T-shirts, to be worn by the joggers so that they can be tracked.

The Joggobot takes off from the ground once the marker on the user’s T-shirt has been identified, automatically rising to its height. Level with the marker on the T-shirt, the Joggobot positions itself about 3 m in front of the jogger, keeping ahead of them according to their pace. If the joggobot is ever unable to detect the jogger, it will  land itself immediately so there’s no need to worry about rogue robots in the sky!

Over the past few years, several companies have come out with apps for mobile phones and other electronic devices that are conducive to jogging however, the team at the Exertion Games Lab stresses the importance of embodying this kind of technology appropriately.

Preliminary research on the joggobot has found that ¨People were positive about the idea of having a flying robot accompanying them while jogging, distracting them from their exhaustion and challenging them to increase their effort. In particular, users appreciated that the system had a ‘body’, which seemed to match the embodied activity of jogging. This becomes particularly evident when compared to virtual jogging support systems such as those available on watches and mobile phones: reading the information during running is often difficult, but with Joggobot, participants thought interactions could be easier to comprehend¨.

Researchers hope to continue using the Joggobot to explore the idea of using robots to support us when exercising… would you jog with the Joggobot?
Click HERE to read more about the Joggobot on the Exertion Games Lab website.

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