PhD candidate Bum chul Kwon shows off his work on the ReadingMate: an enabling technology that allows multi-taskers to exercise their minds and bodies simultaneously by reading as they run. (via Purdue)
As more information becomes available to the human population about health, the importance of exercising both the body and mind consistently becomes an intrinsic necessity. Multi-taskers, busy students in particular, might find themselves brushing up on their class notes prior to an exam while also getting some work in on the gym’s stationary bike. Running on a treadmill, however, may cause a bit of a problem when trying to read small text from a screen -no matter whether or not that text is a reading for class or a simple tweet. Bum chol Kwon from Purdue University has developed software, called ReadingMate, that enables multi-taskers to read as they run by accounting for bobbing movements of the head and the eyes as one focuses in on a text-filled screen
Kwon’s study tested the hypothesis that most reading difficulty while running arises from the vertical running motion. As the head moves up and down, the eyes also auto-adjust to compensate for the motion. Thus, both the head bobbing and eye-reflex mechanism had to be accounted for in the ReadingMate program.
Fifteen student participants were chosen to test the software. Each participant wore a pair of goggles with infrared LEDs that an infrared camera atop a computer screen used to detect the runner’s head movements. These students were then asked to count how many times the letter ‘F’ appeared in two lines of text that were placed in between a total of 10 text lines.
The results showed that those using ReadingMate located the letter ‘F’ at a higher accuracy than those who did not. Kwon also mentions that participants without the ReadingMate would often give up on counting because the text was too small and/or difficult to read.
The self-adjusting text properties of ReadingMate is likely to find most use in industries where employees are required to read text while under the pressures of turbulence and vibrations - such as pilots and heavy machinery operators. For now, students and insistent multi-taskers will have to continue keeping their reading and running exercises separate - which might actually be best if you’re in need of polishing up the ol’ time management skills. Still, Kwon’s ReadingMate technology is a great example of innovation created to optimize overall human performance.
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