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New Technology Allows People to Run and Read at the Same Time

Update Date: Apr 16, 2013 02:44 PM EDT

Few people are able to run and read simultaneously. Whe running, it is difficult to exert the energy to focus the eyes on words, which may also be written in a rather small font. A new tool may allow runners to exercise their body and brains at the same time. Called ReadingMate, the system allows text to bob along with a person's head as they run.

As study author and assistant professor Ji Soo Yi from Purdue University explains in a statement, "This is because the relative location of the eyes to the text is vigorously changing, and our eyes try to constantly adjust to such changes, which is burdensome...You could increase the font size and have a large-screen monitor on the wall, but that's impractical because you cannot have numerous big screen displays in an exercise room."

The system is made up of a screen and goggles that contain infrared LEDs and a camera. The camera tracks the infrared LEDs which, in turn, are keeping time of the runner's bobbing head. Then the normal-size text moves in time with the head, taking into account the eye's natural ability to compensate for motion.

"You can't just move the text exactly in synch with the head because the eye is already doing what it can to compensate," study author Bum Chul Kwon said in a statement. "So you have to account for that compensation by moving the text slightly out of synch with the head motion."

The researchers tested the device with 15 students, who were asked to count how many times the letter F appeared on a computer monitor containing 10 lines of text.

Students using ReadingMate were able to count more accurately. They were also less likely to give up on the task because it was too difficult.

It is unlikely that the technology will be used by people in the gym. However, it could be used by people who operate heavy equipment or by pilots, both of whom experience turbulence that may make it difficult to properly read screens.

The study was published in the journal Human Factors.

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