FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE
The invention relates generally to exercise equipment, and more particularly to a virtual reality exercise system and method.
Just about any exercise done outdoors can also be done indoors, thanks to aerobic machines. Some of the more popular aerobic machines include treadmills, stationary bikes, steppers, and row machines to name a few. Treadmills are great because of their simplicity and are great for beginners. If a user has bad knees, weak ankles or back pain, a treadmill may be preferred to streets and sidewalks because it's kinder on the joints. Most conventional treadmills offer excellent shock absorption.
There are two basic types of treadmills, manual and electric. Manual treadmills are powered by the user. One advantage of a manual treadmill is that it is much more affordable than the automatic treadmill. Other advantages include lower maintenance and less costly repairs. However, manual treadmills are more difficult to accelerate, stop and maintain a consistent speed than electric treadmills. Also, manual treadmills seldom offer incline adjustments.
Most conventional treadmills are electric treadmills and are powered by a motor. Electric treadmills typically have two motors, one to drive the belt and the other for incline purposes. Typical electric treadmills include a continuous-duty motor that runs the belt with at least a 1.5 horsepower motor. Electric treadmills allow users to customize workouts through adjusting the running speed, range of incline and overall difficulty of the workout. Other advantages of electric treadmills include a quiet, smoother workout.
Stationary bikes are also available and are typically provided in two styles, upright and recumbent. Upright bikes simulate regular bikes, while recumbent bikes have bucket-style seats and pedals in front. These bikes offer more back support and provide less strain on the knees, while offering a terrific aerobic workout. Steppers, or stair climbers, are an excellent way to burn calories and tone the legs and buttocks. Users that typically like to ski, climb, hike, or run, most likely enjoy using the stepper to stay in shape.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Most aerobic exercise equipment is interactive in that they provide feedback, such as how many calories burned, the distance traveled, the amount of time elapsed, speed, etc. Some equipment includes a manual mode that allows a user to control the intensity of the workout and some offer pre-programmed workout options. These options include altering the speed, incline and difficulty of a workout.
Other advantages, features and characteristics of the invention, as well as methods, operation and functions of related elements of structure, and the combinations of parts and economies of manufacture, will become apparent upon consideration of the following description and claims with reference to the accompanying drawings, all of which form a part of the specification, wherein like reference numerals designate corresponding parts in the various figures, and wherein:
FIG. 1 illustrates a virtual reality exercise system according to one embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 2 illustrates a virtual reality control system for use with exercise equipment according to one embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 3 illustrates a block diagram of a virtual reality processing system according to one embodiment of the invention; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
FIG. 4 illustrates a flow diagram of a method for providing a virtual reality display according to one embodiment of the invention.
A system and method for providing virtual exercise equipment are disclosed. A virtual reality exercise system may be provide in association with multiple types of exercise equipment including, but not limited to, treadmills, stair steppers, elliptical bikes, cycling machines, rowing machines, etc. In one form, an exercise system operable to project video programming during use comprising includes a video projector coupled to a treadmill platform and operable to display video programming at a distance away from the treadmill platform. A virtual reality control system is coupled to the treadmill platform and includes a display and a scenery selection button operably coupled to a virtual reality processor. The scenery selection button is operable to allow a user to select a type of scenery to display using the video projector. A treadmill motor is provided and is operable to drive a belt coupled to the treadmill platform and an incline motor. Each motor operates in response to the video programming and based on the type of scenery selected.
In another form, a method for providing video programming for exercise equipment having a video projector to produce virtual reality environment during use is disclosed. The method includes determining a platform status of one or more controllable outputs associated with the exercise equipment and determining a selected scene to display using a video projector operably coupled to the exercise equipment. The method further includes generating a platform output based on the selected scene to control a portion of the exercise equipment and generating video programming based on the selected scene and the platform output. The method also includes controlling the portion of the exercise equipment using the output to simulate the generated video programming and displaying the video programming in synch with controlling the portion of the exercise equipment.
FIG. 1 illustrates a virtual reality exercise system according to one embodiment of the invention. A virtual reality exercise system 10 includes a treadmill 19 having a treadmill platform 12 coupled to a frame 11. Treadmill 19 includes a treadmill belt 16 coupled to a treadmill motor 15 operable to rotate treadmill belt 16 during operation. Treadmill platform 12 further includes a handle 13 and a video projector 14 operable to display video programming on screen 18. Treadmill motor 15 and/or incline motor 17 may be provided as either AC or DC motors. For example, treadmill motor 15 may be a AC motor rated at greater than 1.5 horsepower and capable of providing incremental operating speeds of treadmill belt 16 that range between zero and twelve miles per hour. Treadmill belt 16 may be seventeen to twenty-two inches wide and forty to sixty inches long and may be a single ply or multi-ply belt made from a durable rubber/non-slip material. Incline motor 17 may be operated to provide various degrees of incline ranging between two and twenty-five degrees.
During use, virtual reality exercise system 10 allows for a user to run or jog on treadmill 19 as treadmill belt 16 is rotated using treadmill motor 15. As treadmill belt 16 is rotated, video projector 14 displays video programming on screen 18 to produce a selected scenery. For example, video projector 14 may display a jogging or running path within a park, a elongated beach, a hilly region, a metropolitan area, or any other type of scenery. Video programming is output by video projector 14 in synch with treadmill 19. For example, as incline motor 17 raises treadmill platform 12 to create an incline, video projector 14 displays a graphic representation of an uphill jogging trail, hilly region, mountain trail, etc. Similarly, as incline motor 17 is lowered, video projector 14 may display a level terrain on screen 18. In another embodiment, as treadmill motor increases or decreases in operating speed, video projector 14 outputs video programming at a faster or slower rate respectively.
In one embodiment, treadmill 19 may be operated in response to a predetermined video program. For example, as media associated with video programming is processed by virtual reality exercise system 10, treadmill 19 and associated platform motors are controlled by a virtual reality processor (not expressly shown) which alters the speed and incline of treadmill 19 based on video programming being displayed. For example, treadmill 19 would be synchronized with video programming being output and incline and speed of treadmill 19 would be altered based on the scene being displayed.
FIG. 2 illustrates a virtual reality control system for use with exercise equipment according to one embodiment of the invention. Virtual reality control system 22 includes a display 23 which may include a flat panel LCD that may be operated in association with several function buttons including a mode selector 24, a speed selector 25, a scene selector 27, an incline selector 35, an ok button 26 and a cancel button 28. Speed selector 25 allows for a user to increase or decrease the speed of operation and incline selector 35 allows a user to increase or decrease a percentage or degree of incline. Virtual reality control system 22 further includes a start button 32 for initializing operation and a stop button 33 for stopping or pausing operation. A video projector 31 is provided to display or project video programming and focus controls 34 may be used to adjust image or display quality. Virtual reality control system 22 further includes handles 29 having heart rate monitors 30 for determining the current heart rate of a user. In one embodiment, heart monitors 30 may be provided via a wireless monitor coupled to the user and detectable using a wireless transceiver provided as a part of virtual reality control system 22. Speaker 36 may provide audio output to a user such as music, audio associated with video programming displayed by video projector 31, an alarm to indicate a limits for a heart rate, speed, distance, etc. For example, heart monitor 30 may provide an average heart rate for a workout, and an audio alarm may be provided via speaker 36 and a visual alarm may be provided using display 23 to let the exerciser know when they're above or below their target heart rate, compute the total exercise time spent in, above, and below the target heart zone.
Display 23 may also display one or more of speed, time, distance, number of calories burned, heart rate. Virtual reality control system 22 may also include preset and/or customizable programming capabilities. For example, preset programs may be stored within virtual reality control system 22 for ease of access. In another embodiment, virtual reality control system 22 may also record a person's workout history and display 23 may display a workout log to a user.
In one embodiment, virtual reality control system 22 may automatically adjust incline, which changes depending upon the exerciser's heart rate as detected by heart rate monitor 30. For example, a heart rate may be communicated to virtual reality control system 22 via a wireless heart rate monitor (not expressly shown) and automatically adjusts the percentage or degree of incline to keep the person within their target heart range. Virtual reality control console 22 would detect the change and video programming may be altered in synch with changing the degree of incline accordingly.
FIG. 3 illustrates a block diagram of a virtual reality processing system according to one embodiment of the invention. Virtual reality processing system 40 may be provided as one or more electronic device or integrated circuits as needed and includes a virtual reality processor 41 coupled to an input controller 47 and a platform sensor module 42. Virtual reality processor 41 is further coupled to a media player 45 and a platform controller 43 for altering operation of one or more operating characteristics of equipment such as a treadmill, stair climber, rowing machine, or cycling machine (not expressly shown). Media player 45 is coupled to a media source 44 operable to provide digital representations of video programming or segments and may include a CD-ROM encoded with CD-ROM encoded video segments, a DVD encoded with DVD encoded video segments, a local video library storing plural local video segments, a remote video library storing plural remote video segments. Media may be stored local to exercise machine, within a local area network such as a wireless Intranet, or at a network location accessible via the Internet. Though not illustrated, Media source may be accessed using high-speed wireless or wire line communications. Media player 45 may be operable to process MPEG encoded video and may be operated and controlled by virtual reality processor 41 to output or display media using media output device 46. Virtual reality processor further includes one or more modules for processing media and sensor inputs to provide video programming including a frame analyzer, a speed analyzer, an incline analyzer, etc.
During operation, virtual reality processing system 40 receives inputs from input controller 47 and platform sensor module 41 to determine a platform status for producing video programming and platform output controls. Virtual reality processor 41 analyzes sensory inputs to determine a current speed and incline of a platform and compares each input to a current media being displayed by media player 45. If a change in media is determined through analyzing future video segments or frames of the media as provided by media source 44, virtual reality processor 41 alters platform operating characteristics based on the video programming about to be played by media player 45.
In another embodiment, inputs provided by platform sensor module 42 and/or input controller 47 may be used to determine video programming to be played by media player 45. A user may manually adjust the speed and/or incline of an exercise equipment. As such, virtual processing system 40 may adjust the output and/or content of video programming being displayed by media output device 46. For example, if a user manually increases or decreases the speed of operation, virtual reality processor may increase the speed at which media player 45 outputs video programming. In a similar manner, as a user slows down the speed of operation, virtual reality processor may decrease the speed at which media player 45 output video programming. A user may also alter the type of media content being output through increasing or decreasing an incline of an exercise equipment. For example, a user may add incline to a treadmill thereby causing virtual reality processor 41 to request media from media source that may include a hill. Similarly, if an exercise bike is being used, a hill may be encountered, if a rowing machine is being used, an increase in a current may be used, if a stair stepper is being used steeper steps may be encountered. As such, a user providing manual control of an exercise equipment may alter video programming being output or displayed by media output device 46.
FIG. 4 illustrates a flow diagram of a method for providing a virtual reality display according to one embodiment of the invention. The method begins generally at step 60 when a user powers up or initializes exercise equipment such as a treadmill. At step 61, a mode of operation is determined and may include manual mode, preprogram mode, custom program mode, random mode, etc. At step 62, a selected speed is determined for a mode of operation and may include an upper speed limit, a range of desired speeds, etc. A desired incline is determined 63 and may be set to a specific angle, a range of angles, linked to a heart monitor for altering an incline, provided as a random mode, etc. A scene selection is then determined 64 from a users selection and may include one or more types of scenes such as hill scene, beach scene, mountain scene, city scene, country scene, random scenes and/or various combinations of scenes. Scene types are displayed to a user via a user interface or display operably associated with a virtual reality control system associated with the exercise equipment. Based on the determined variables, each input is processed 65 to determine a media output or video programming to be displayed. Media is then obtained 66 based on the processed inputs. For example, media may include MPEG encoded video having encoded information such to identify a type of scene to display. As such, the MPEG encoded video may be determined for a desired scene or scenery and combined to provide the output video programming. Each portion of the media may be stored as a discrete chapter within a library and as a requested media type is determined, a media source may provide the segment to a virtual reality processor for output. In this manner, smaller segments of video may be accessed and displayed as needed.
Upon obtaining media, a platform status of the exercise equipment is determined 67 and one or more control outputs 68 are provided to a platform controller based on the media to be displayed. For example, the speed and/or the incline of a treadmill may be adjusted accordingly. Video programming is then output to a media player 69 and a video projector displays or outputs video programming 70. At step 71, if a user selects the stop button, the method proceeds to step 72 and the platform is reduced to a stop 72 and the display is dimmed 73. If a stop button is not activated by a user, the method proceeds to step 67 where the status of the platform is determined and the method proceeds accordingly controlling the platform in response to the video programming being output. The method of FIG. 4 may also be modified to allow a user to interact with controls associated with the treadmill. As such, media output may be altered based on increasing/decreasing operating speed and or incline of the equipment.
Note that although an embodiment of the invention has been shown and described in detail herein, along with certain variants thereof, many other varied embodiments that incorporate the teachings of the invention may be easily constructed by those skilled in the art. Benefits, other advantages, and solutions to problems have been described above with regard to specific embodiments. However, the benefits, advantages, solutions to problems, and any element(s) that may cause any benefit, advantage, or solution to occur or become more pronounced are not to be construed as a critical, required, or essential feature or element of any or all the claims. Accordingly, the invention is not intended to be limited to the specific form set forth herein, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents, as can be reasonably included within the spirit and scope of the invention.