Impower Health, a start-up incubated by UNeTech, receives a patent for a new self-paced treadmill
Exercise equipment startup Impower Health Inc. has announced the granting of a new US patent (#11,185,740) for a treadmill that automatically adjusts to the user’s running pace.
The invention was originally developed as a potential therapeutic device to help stroke patients by three University of Nebraska Omaha students, William Denton, Molly Schieber, MD, PHD and Casey Wiens. The technology was later developed into a commercial product by Impower Health in tandem with UNeTech – the technology transfer arm of the University of Nebraska.
It’s called a free-paced or hands-free treadmill, and the technology promises to provide a safer and more intuitive experience for stationary runners. Rather than setting speed and intensity changes for a workout before you start, you just turn it on and start running.
Lidar sensors on the front of the treadmill monitor your run. Data from these sensors is transmitted through a custom algorithm that determines an appropriate speed and sets the movement of the treadmill belt accordingly.
The closer you are to the front of the treadmill, the faster it goes. As you move backwards on the treadmill, it automatically slows down. If you get off the machine, the walking belt automatically stops to prevent injury.
“It’s different from walking on a standard treadmill, but once you get used to using it, the response time is very quick.” says Stephanie Kidd, communications strategist for UNeTech.
“Motor response is highly regulated to ensure user safety. One of the many benefits of working with the biomechanics experts at the University of Nebraska at Omaha is their extensive knowledge of kinesiology and electrical and mechanical engineering. They know exactly how the body works and functions, and they helped us design a system that could maximize that interactivity with the machine,” adds Doug Miller, CEO of Impower.
The added safety of Impower’s design is sure to turn heads in an industry that has been outraged by preventable injuries. In 2012, nearly half a million people went to hospital for injuries related to exercise equipment. Last year, Peloton has recalled 125,000 treadmills following the death of a small child who was pulled under one of the company’s Tread+ treadmills.
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“Several other manufacturers and research institutes have tried to create this same technology,” says Doug Miller, CEO of Impower, with varying degrees of success. “But none have succeeded with cost-effective technology [for] both consumer and commercial markets. »
Impower Health hopes to change that and is currently looking to partner with a treadmill manufacturer to bring their new technology to market.
This is one of those ideas that seems so obvious it’s hard to believe it didn’t already exist. Yet currently, if you want an experience similar to that offered by an Impower treadmill, your options are limited. There are some high-end manual treadmills like the $6,000 Woodway Curve, which are “effectively more like a hamster wheel,” says Miller. If you are, say, a Stanford kinesiology researcher, you can also choose to run custom software on your instrumented rehabilitation-grade treadmill in your lab. But these can cost up to $80,000.
However, when they hit the market, Miller expects the premium for an Impower-compatible treadmill to be “no more than a few hundred dollars.”