Could a simple quadcopter revolutionize the way we work out?
We have robots to assemble our cars, and others to clean our floors while we're out of the house. There are robots designed to carry huge loads, and still others that patrol unfriendly skies. These unmanned machines work best alone, in part because technology hasn't reached the point where human-robot interaction works seamlessly. But that's about to change.
Increasingly, we're coming to view automated devices as companions, not appliances. One example is the Joggobot, a machine that, despite sounding like it came out of an episode of "Lost in Space," has the potential to change much about the way we exercise. At the moment, it's a relatively simple device -- just a quadrotor drone that keeps up with you on your runs.
The robot is tethered to your smartphone, which you use to tell the device how high off the ground it should float. And then, you just go. The robot follows you by focusing on a special T-shirt you wear (always a catch, eh?) marked with orange and blue squares. It operates under two modes: a companion mode that automatically adjusts the drone's speed according to the runner's pace, and a coaching mode that challenges the runner by pulling ahead just so slightly.
There's nothing really revolutionary about the technology in its current form. It's little more than a replacement for a jogging buddy. But combined with evolutions in mobile hardware and software, it's not hard to see what the future of exercise might look like.