Shoe­box on wheels the lat­est top train­ing aid

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - BEN COXWORTH

If you’re a se­ri­ous com­pet­i­tive run­ner, then train­ing on your own isn’t al­ways enough — you need some­one else to race against. That said, a fast enough run­ner might not al­ways be avail­able. What do you do then? Well, if you’re one of a lucky few, you may soon be able to use your Puma BeatBot ro­bot.

The de­vice was cre­ated by Puma’s ad­ver­tis­ing agency, J. Wal­ter Thomp­son New York, with some help from a NASA ro­bot­ics en­gi­neer and a group of MIT stu­dents.

It’s equipped with nine down­ward-fac­ing in­frared sen­sors that can track straight or curved lines on the ground. With some help from an Ar­duino mi­cro­con­troller and a nine-axis ac­celerom­e­ter, it can zip along a run­ning track while fol­low­ing one of the ex­ist­ing lane-mark­ing lines, mak­ing 100 steer­ing ad­just­ments a sec­ond to stay on tar­get. Puma hasn’t stated a max­i­mum speed, but it can match Usain Bolt’s 100-me­ter dash world record of 44,7 km/h.

Users start en­ter the dis­tance that they plan to run on an app, as well as the time they’d like to beat. They then place the BeatBot on the start­ing line along­side them­selves, wait for it to beep three times, and then start run­ning. It will move along on its own line, count­ing its wheel rev­o­lu­tions to de­ter­mine its speed and dis­tance trav­elled. If the user ends up beat­ing it, they’ve achieved their goal. A limited num­ber of BeatBot will only go to se­lect spon­sored run­ners.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Usain Bolt with the weird­est ap­pli­ca­tion of wheels this month.

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