Opinion Brief

'Joggobot': The robotic jogging companion

A research team transforms a helicopter drone into a faithful contraption that might make your exercise buddy obsolete

The video: Sticking to an exercise routine takes dedication, and many fitness junkies swear that a running companion can be a huge help. For those who lack a human partner, researchers Floyd Mueller and Eberhard Grather, of the Exertion Games Lab at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, have developed "Joggobot," a quad-rotor helicopter drone designed to motivate joggers by flying in front of them (watch a video below). The aerial robot uses its camera to spot a colorful pattern on a T-shirt worn by the jogger, and flies at a safe distance ahead. The runner can control Joggobot using a smartphone: In "companion mode," the drone simply maintains the jogger's pace; in "coach mode," it pushes its human trainee a little faster.

The reaction: If it's ever commercialized, Joggobot could be a godsend for joggers looking for a reliable way to control their pace, says Trevor Mogg at Digital Trends. Can you imagine a marathon with "30,000 of these things flying along with the runners"? Actually, no ... Joggobot would get left in the dust, says Olivia Solon at Wired U.K. These drones have a battery life of 20 minutes, so they wouldn't be much help to serious runners. Still, says Michael Kwan at Mobile Magazine, imagine the possibilities. "You could equip Joggobot to keep the path lit when you go for a run at night, for example," or use "Kinect-esque motion-based waving" to get it to speed up or slow down on command. Try getting a human jogging buddy to do that. Witness the Joggobot in action:

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