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Publication numberUS20090098981 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/249,562
Publication dateApr 16, 2009
Filing dateOct 10, 2008
Priority dateOct 11, 2007
Also published asWO2009048636A1
Publication number12249562, 249562, US 2009/0098981 A1, US 2009/098981 A1, US 20090098981 A1, US 20090098981A1, US 2009098981 A1, US 2009098981A1, US-A1-20090098981, US-A1-2009098981, US2009/0098981A1, US2009/098981A1, US20090098981 A1, US20090098981A1, US2009098981 A1, US2009098981A1
InventorsRalph J. Del Giorno
Original AssigneeDel Giorno Ralph J
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Virtual Trainer
US 20090098981 A1
Abstract
An interactive virtual training system including at least one exercise equipment device including a video user interface, an audio input, an audio output, voice recognition software for interpreting a user's spoken commands and software that monitors a user's exercise pattern for consistency, where changes in the exercise pattern trigger a query to the user asking whether assistance is necessary, and software for adjusting the workout routine if a user indicates that modification is needed.
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Claims(22)
1. An interactive virtual training system comprising:
at least one exercise equipment device including a video user interface, an audio input, and an audio output;
software executing on said exercise equipment device utilizing voice recognition for interpreting a user's spoken commands received via the audio input;
software executing on said exercise equipment device for implementing a workout routine based on a user's spoken commands;
software executing on said exercise equipment device for monitoring a user's exercise pattern for consistency, wherein changes in said exercise pattern prompt a query to the user whether assistance is necessary; and
software executing on said exercise equipment device for adjusting the workout routine based upon a user's spoken commands if a user indicates that modification is needed.
2. The system according to claim 1, wherein the query to the user whether assistance is necessary is provided via the audio output.
3. The system according to claim 1, wherein the query to the user whether assistance is necessary is provided visually via the video user interface.
4. The system according to claim 1, wherein said software for modifying a workout routine implements a change in workout parameters.
5. The system according to claim 4, wherein said workout parameters include at least one of level of difficulty, duration, resistance, weight, incline, and speed.
6. The system according to claim 1, further comprising software executing on said exercise equipment device that provides visual feedback, motivation and encouragement via the video interface.
7. The system according to claim 1, further comprising software executing on said exercise equipment device that provides auditory feedback, motivation and encouragement via the audio output.
8. The system according to claim 1, further comprising software executing on said exercise equipment device for generating a customizable interactive virtual trainer based on user's spoken commands.
9. The system according to claim 8, wherein said interactive virtual trainer is an animated human form.
10. The system according to claim 1, wherein said video user interface includes a plurality of display screens
11. The system according to claim 1, wherein said audio input is placed at the point on the exercise equipment device closest to the user's voice.
12. The system according to claim 1, further comprising software executing on said exercise equipment device for monitoring a user's workout data.
13. The system according to claim 12, wherein said workout data is stored on a central server.
14. The system according to claim 13, wherein said user's workout data is accessible via the world wide web.
15. A method of personal training, comprising the steps of:
providing a user with a virtual trainer on exercise equipment;
creating a workout routine based on a user's spoken commands;
monitoring a user's exercise pattern for consistency;
recognizing changes in a user's exercise pattern;
querying the user whether modification in the routine is needed if a change is recognized; and
adjusting the workout routine based upon a user's spoken commands if a user indicates that modification is needed.
16. The method of claim 15, wherein the virtual trainer provides visual feedback, encouragement and motivation.
17. The method of claim 15, wherein the virtual trainer provides auditory feedback, encouragement and motivation.
18. The method of claim 15, wherein the virtual trainer is customizable.
19. The method of claim 18, wherein the virtual trainer is customizable in its gender, appearance, voice and intensity level.
20. The method of claim 15, wherein voice recognition technology is used.
21. The method of claim 15, further comprising the steps of receiving workout data from the exercise equipment and storing the workout data on a central server.
22. The method of claim 21, wherein the workout data is accessible via the world wide web.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority benefits under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) of the U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/979,213 filed on Oct. 11, 2007, the content of which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates generally to fitness training, and more specifically to a system and method for providing an interactive virtual fitness trainer to users in real-time.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

As personal fitness becomes more popular, people are looking for better and more effective ways to exercise. People further seek exercise programs which keep their interest and motivation levels high. One of the best ways for people who go to a gym, and even those who work out at home, to achieve a good workout is to enlist the help of personal trainers.

Personal trainers are individuals who usually have a fitness training background and who provide personal training services to an individual customer. These trainers instruct the exerciser how to properly use the equipment, design personalized exercise routines, give encouragement throughout the workout and even, if necessary, give the exerciser help, such as a spot. Another benefit of personal trainers is that they often provide their customers with the needed incentive and motivation to continue to work out and perform, and may also revise the exercise routine over time based on performance and results. However, these, real personal trainers can become extremely expensive and may not be available at all times. Often gyms have a limited number of trainers on staff and therefore it is also difficult to change trainers if desired.

As technology and the Internet have developed, various methods of overcoming the problem with personal trainers have arisen. Many aerobic exercise machines now come with predetermined programs that the user can tailor to fit his/her exercise needs and desires. Furthermore, systems have been developed to compare a user's current and previous performance and adjust the exercise equipment accordingly.

Methods to instruct users on the use of equipment and to design personal exercise routines have also developed. Videos have been produced to provide the details on how to use exercise equipment and computer programs have been written that will custom tailor an exercise routine to a user's abilities and requirements.

For example, U.S. Patent Application Publication 2005/0164833 discloses software that allows users to choose a virtual personal trainer and select their own exercise routine. The virtual trainer demonstrates the use of the gym equipment on a computer and then the users follow the routine at their own pace and at a place and time of their own convenience. However, the virtual trainer is not there to encourage, motivate and assist the user while he/she is exercising.

None of these technological replacements for real personal trainers have all of the aspects of a real personal trainer. None provide the on site encouragement, motivation, incentive or assistance that a personal trainer can give. It is therefore desired to provide a system and method for creating and implementing an interactive virtual personal trainer that can be used on various exercise equipment. It is also desired to provide a system and method for providing a virtual trainer which provides a planned exercise routine and real time motivation based on past performance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a customizable interactive virtual trainer for providing an exercise routine and motivation and encouragement during the exercise routine. It is also an object of the present invention to provide a system and method which retains exercise data and history and provides the exercise routine and motivation based on the exercise data and history.

These and other objectives are achieved by providing a virtual trainer exercise system including at least one exercise equipment device including a video user interface, an audio input, an audio output, and a data port for receiving a portable storage device, a server in communication with the exercise equipment device, a database in communication with the server, the database including one or more user profiles, software executing on the exercise equipment device for receiving user data from the portable storage device, software executing on the server for accessing a user profile corresponding to the user data, and software executing on the server for generating an interactive virtual trainer based on the user profile and providing the interactive virtual trainer to the user via the user interface and audio output.

Also provided is a method of providing a user with a virtual trainer in situ on exercise equipment including the steps of receiving user data from a portable memory device, accessing a user profile corresponding to the user data, generating an interactive virtual trainer, displaying the interactive virtual trainer on a video display, implementing a workout routine on the exercise equipment, receiving speech input from the user and providing a response to the speech input via the interactive virtual trainer.

Further provided is a method of generating an interactive virtual trainer and workout regiment for use in situ on exercise equipment, including the steps of accessing a server via the Internet, creating a username and a password, entering one or more personal data elements corresponding to the user for storage in a user profile, selecting a customizable virtual trainer for storage in the user profile, selecting trainer attributes indicative of at least one of an appearance and a behavior of the virtual trainer, providing one or more workout parameters, and receiving a workout routine based on the one or more workout parameters.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic view of a virtual trainer exercise system according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is another schematic view of the system shown in FIG. 1

FIGS. 3A and B are exemplary video user interfaces employable by the system shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIG. 4 is a method of providing a virtual trainer employable by the system shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIGS. 5A and 5B are exemplary screenshots generated by the system shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIG. 6 is another method of providing a virtual trainer employable by the system shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIG. 7 is an exemplary exercise equipment device employable by the virtual trainer exercise system shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIG. 8 is another view of the exemplary exercise equipment device shown in FIG. 7.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 shows a system for providing a virtual trainer according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The system includes one or more exercise equipment devices 110, such as treadmills, stationary bicycles, elliptical machines, stair climbers, weight lifting machines, etc. These exercise equipment devices 110 may be purchased by a user for in-home use or used at a fitness facility or gym. Preferably the system includes a network of exercise equipment, either in a particular facility or across a plurality of facilities.

Each device 110 includes a data port for receiving profile data 142 from a profile storage device 140, a video user interface 214, and an audio input/output 212. The profile storage device 140 may be any digital storage device that is sufficient to identify a user, such as a portable memory stick or a USB flash drive or a database of user profiles. The video user interface 214 includes an LCD monitor for displaying an interactive virtual trainer according to the present invention and/or a touch screen interface for receiving manual input from the user.

The audio input/output 212 includes a voice recognition application such as Natural Internet Voice Recognition (“NIVP”) to receive speech data and/or commands from the user. The audio input/output 212 includes a microphone, or a wireless communication receiver, e.g., Bluetooth interface, for communicating with a wireless headset. The placement of the microphone is required to initiate voice recognition communication between the Virtual Personal Trainer and the user will vary according to the type of exercise equipment to be used but should always be at the closest point in relation to the users voice. For example, said microphone might be placed on the bar of a chest press machine. The audio input/output 212 further includes one or more speakers for providing audio portions of the virtual trainer. The speakers may be included in a headset (e.g., Bluetooth headset).

The NIVP includes software executing on the server 100 and/or exercise equipment device 110 for recognizing and interpreting speech input from the user 200. Based on the interpreted speech input, the system or software thereof formulates commands to send to the exercise equipment device 110 to adjust a workout routine and/or interact with the virtual trainer. The NIVP also receives speech commands to start and stop the workout. For new users, the NIVP may further receive information necessary to create a new user profile.

The system further includes one or more workstations 130. The workstation 130 may be a personal computer remotely accessible to the system or a terminal (e.g., kiosk) located in the vicinity of the exercise equipment device 110. Via the workstation 130, a user may provide user input 132 to the server 100 to generate his/her user profile, and download profile data 142 to a profile storage device 140. For example, the user can select a trainer and customize the trainer's attributes via the workstation 130. The user can also select attributes of his/her workout routine. However, user input 132 and profile data 142 can also be generated and stored to the server and/or profile storage device 140 directly through the exercise equipment 110, e.g., via the user interface 214 and audio input 212 thereof.

User input 132 and user profiles are stored in one or more databases 112 accessible by the server 100. The databases 112 may further include reference to fitness, health and/or particular fitness equipment information which is accessible to the users (e.g., via interaction with their virtual trainer). The server 100 further communicates with the exercise equipment device 110 (e.g., via the internet 120) before, during and/or after a workout routine. The server 100 transmits trainer data, such as data indicative of an interactive virtual trainer, and workout regimens to the exercise equipment device 110 and receives workout results 150 therefrom. The results 150 (e.g., workout history) are stored by the server 100 and used by the system to update workout routines and further generate the interactive trainer. For example, the interactive virtual trainer may provide relevant motivation and feedback to the user based on his/her past workout performance.

On exercise equipment devices 110 that are weight lifting machines, the devices may be equipped with hydraulic technology to change the load associated with the exercise, as well as provide assistance (e.g., a spot) when the system senses a user 200 is in need of help or when a user communicates to the virtual trainer that he/she needs assistance. Furthermore, the exercise equipment devices 110 may be equipped with power seats that automatically adjust to profile data 142.

FIG. 2 shows a system for using the exercise equipment device 110. The exercise equipment device 110 contains a processor 210 for executing software, an audio input/output device 212 and a user interface 214. The processor 210 downloads profile data 142 from the profile storage device 140. The profile data 142 may include a complete user profile, any portion thereof or a trigger to enable the system to access the user profile from the server 100. For example, the processor 210 may use the profile data 142 to access the server 100 and retrieve trainer data and/or workout regimens 152 corresponding to the user.

Based on the user profile, the system generates an interactive virtual trainer (e.g., 520) for continuous display and interaction with the user 200 during his/her workout. In some embodiments, the system provides a three-dimensional display of the virtual trainer to the user. The virtual trainer provides motivation, encouragement and feedback including audio and video trainer data 222/224 to the user during the workout. The system further receives receive input from the user 200 to the virtual trainer via the user interface 214 and/or the audio input device 212. The virtual trainer may therefore ask targeted questions of the user (e.g., confirmations, desired equipment settings, etc.) and answer questions and responds to commands from the user. For example, the virtual trainer may answer questions about fitness and/or the particular equipment, and may implement commands such as changes to the workout routine in progress. In another example, using voice recognition will trigger the assistance and motivation required to complete additional repetitions during a fitness exercise. Alternatively, the device will monitor the pattern and “smoothness” with which the user carries out a repetitive exercise. The virtual trainer will then request if the user could use assistance and how many additional repetitions should be completed. The trainer will then reduce the weight enough to complete the desired set of repetitions.

The system employs the NIVP software to interpret questions from the user 200 and provide the appropriate responses. The system further responds to user's 200 requests by adjusting the workout routine if appropriate and providing necessary motivation, encouragement and/or incentives, etc. The virtual trainer 520 may be able to respond to its name and/or be able to refer to the user 200 by his/her name. During and/or upon completion of the workout, workout data 150 or workout results are transmitted to the server 100. The workout data 150 is stored in the corresponding user profile for access by the user and use in future workouts (e.g., by the virtual trainer). For example, a virtual trainer may suggest increasing a duration or weight to a user based on his/her performance in a previous workout.

The user's workout data 150 as well as additional data relating to the user's overall health and health history may be compiled. This data may be shared with health care providers and insurance providers in order to make better preventative health programs and incentives for their clients.

FIGS. 3A and 3B are examples of the exercise equipment device 110 including a user interface 214. The user interface 214 provides the visual depiction (e.g., 3-D visual depiction) of the virtual trainer 520 to the user and/or other workout and trainer data. The user 200 can manually input information and/or preferences into the user interface 214 to adjust workouts and/or control other aspects of the system, including the appearance of the virtual trainer 520, the trainer's attributes, demeanor, intensity and/or involvement. Alternatively, design of the various features of the virtual trainer may be carried out using the voice recognition software.

FIG. 4 depicts a method of creating a user profile, a virtual trainer, and a workout routine. The user 200 first accesses the virtual trainer server, e.g., via a website of the system (step 401). The server and/or website is accessible via a workstation of the system, or through a user interface of exercise equipment of the system. The website and/or exercise equipment 110 may then ask if the user 200 is a new or returning user (step 403).

If the user 200 is a new user, the user is prompted to register (step 405). Registration may include entering or speaking the user's 200 personal information, including but not limited to name, address, payment information, age, and/or weight. Some information, such as heart rate and weight, may be received by sensors of the system included on the exercise equipment device 110 or other devices of the system. Once registration is complete, the user is prompted to design a virtual trainer 520. If the user 200 is not a new user, the user may simply be prompted to log-in (step 409). Once logged-on, the server 100 may access the database 112 to retrieve the user's stored information and, if desired, modify the user's virtual trainer.

Once the user 200 has designed a virtual trainer (step 407) or log-in (step 409), the user is prompted to provide workout preferences (step 411). The step of providing workout preferences may include selecting what personal training devices 110 to use and/or deciding what muscle group to work on. The workout preferences may also include a preferred workout duration, number of repetitions and/or sets, a workout intensity, etc. A user may provide general workout preferences, detailed workout preferences or no preferences at all. Based on the preferences provided, if any, the system generates a workout routine and prompts the user for confirmation of the routine. In some embodiments, a user may add music to his/her user profile. For example, user profiles may include any number of songs and play lists to be provided to the user during his/her workout. Finally, once the workout is created, profile data is downloaded to the profile storage device 140.

The user profiles may be securely maintained by the server 100 or, at the user's option, displayed in whole or part on a webpage. For example, the system may include an online community for fitness minded people to meet and network. Users can view other user's profiles, fitness goals and progress. Users can further post photos and personal advertisements, ask and answer questions via chat rooms, share experiences via blogs, etc.

FIGS. 5A and 5B show screenshots generated by the software used to customize a virtual trainer 520. A virtual trainer 520 may be chosen from a database of already created virtual trainers or may be generated and/or customized by each user. Numerous aspects of the virtual trainer may be customized including but not limited to, hair style and color 504, clothing 506, age 508, skin tone 510, gender, demeanor, voice characteristics, body type and size, eye color, facial features, etc. Additionally, e.g., in the for-home use version, the virtual trainer 520 may be customizable to be nude and/or use profanity. Furthermore, the virtual trainer 520 can be designed to have a celebrity likeness, which aspect of the system may be accessible for a fee.

FIG. 6 depicts a method of using the personal training device 110. Before beginning to exercise, the user 200 inserts the profile storage device 140 into the personal training device 110 (step 601). Then, the processor 210 accesses a user profile corresponding to information provided on the profile storage device (step 603). Using the profile data 142, the processor 210 may use software to communicate with the server 100 to upload the trainer data and/or workout regimen 152. Once the processor 210 has all the necessary data, including but not limited to the trainer data and workout regimen 152, the processor 210 generates and provides the interactive virtual trainer 520 to the user via the user interface 214 and audio input/output 212 (step 605).

The virtual trainer 520 proceeds to ask the user 200, via the user interface 214, audio device 212 or any other communications means, if the user 200 is ready to begin the workout and confirms workout parameters. After the user 200 communicates, via the user interface 214, audio device 212 or any other communications means, that he/she is ready to begin the workout, the processor 210 may implement the workout parameters from the user profile and begins the workout (step 609).

During the workout, the processor 210 may receive data regarding the user's 200 performance from the personal training device 110 and may use software to instruct the virtual trainer 520 to provide the appropriate feedback to the user 200 (step 611). Such feedback may include motivation, encouragement to work harder, incentive to improve performance, and accolades for good performance. Such feedback is communicated visually through the user interface 214 and/or audibly through the audio device 212 and/or speakers attached to the exercise equipment 110.

During the workout, the processor 210 continuously monitors the user's 200 commands, through the audio device 212, the user interface 214 and/or any other communications means. If at any time during and/or before the workout the user 200 wishes to modify the workout (steps 613), the processor 210 makes the necessary adjustments, including but not limited to length of the workout, intensity of the workout, number of sets and/or repetitions, etc. The user may communicate using microphones using voice recognition. Placement of the microphones will vary depending upon the type of exercise equipment which is being used. Once the modifications to the workout are made, the virtual trainer 520 confirms the adjustments with the user (step 617), implements the workout parameters and begins the new workout.

As an additional feature, the equipment may be able to track the user's body weight and maintain historical records over time. This data will be stored on the web based database for future access and reference.

FIGS. 7 and 8 illustrate an exemplary exercise equipment device 110 employable by the virtual trainer exercise system according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention. The device 110 may include multiple displays or user interfaces 214 a-214 c. Each display or monitor may have its own functions and state of the art technology providing added distraction to a fitness work out. Users may select the particular content to be displayed on each. For example, a virtual trainer may be interactively display on a first display (e.g., 214 a), workouts statistics and/or workout design functions on second display (e.g., 214 b) and multimedia (e.g., TV, cable, Internet, Email, Direct TV, DVD, etc.) on a third display (e.g., 214 c).

In some embodiments, the device 110 and/or displays thereof are operable via selectable menus on any one or all of the displays. Menus of dialogue choices provide a means of communication with the virtual trainers. These choices can be questions and/or responses to the user's answers that motivate you, teach, and direct you through your desired fitness routine. A user may therefore communicate with his/her virtual trainer via the voice recognition application described above, via questions presented on the display(s) with selectable (e.g., touch screen) answers or options, or by both means. A user may also create and/or modify a virtual trainer via a series of menus on the display(s). In some embodiments, the device 110, displays and/or menus are also controllable using a remote or wireless controller. The virtual personal trainers can be designed, profiles created, and routines programmed with the remote control or wireless controller.

Although the invention has been described with reference to a particular arrangement of parts, features and the like, these are not intended to exhaust all possible arrangements or features, and indeed many modifications and variations will be ascertainable to those of skill in the art.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US20110092779 *Oct 16, 2009Apr 21, 2011At&T Intellectual Property I, L.P.Wearable Health Monitoring System
US20110319229 *Dec 20, 2010Dec 29, 2011Kevin CorbalisInstructional Displays and Methods for Exercise Machine
US20130177884 *Jan 5, 2012Jul 11, 2013Tom RootSystem and method for multiple component audio visual programming
EP2316542A1 *Oct 1, 2010May 4, 2011Precor IncorporatedVirtual trainer and monitoring system
Classifications
U.S. Classification482/9
International ClassificationA63B71/00
Cooperative ClassificationA63B2230/06, A63B2071/0658, A63B2225/50, A63B24/0075, A63B21/00, A63B2024/0093, A63B71/0622, A63B2024/0065, A63B2225/20, A63B2220/52, A63B2024/0068, A63B2071/068, A63B22/00, A63B2071/063, A63B24/0062
European ClassificationA63B24/00H, A63B71/06D2, A63B24/00G