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Apple developing activity monitor for skiers, snowboarders, bikers

post #1 of 24
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Apple appears to be working on an activity sensor similar to the Nike+ iPod sport kit geared towards skiers, snowboarders and mountain bikers that would be capable of determining their "air time," "speed," and the amount of "power" or energy absorbed during those sporting activities.

"It is well known that many skiers enjoy high speeds and jumping motions while traveling down the slope. High speeds refer to the greater and greater velocities which skiers attempt in navigating the slope successfully (and sometimes unsuccessfully)," Apple wrote in a new patent filing discovered by AppleInsider this week. "The jumping motions, on the other hand, include movements which loft the skier into the air. Generally, the greater the skier's speed, the higher the skier's loft into the air."

The Cupertino-based electronics maker further notes that the interest in high speed skiing is apparent simply by observing the velocity of skiers descending the mountain. Meanwhile, interest in the loft motion is less apparent, though it is known that certain enthusiastic skiers regularly exclaim "let's catch some air" and other assorted remarks when referring to the amount and altitude of the lofting motion.

"The sensations of speed and jumping are also readily achieved in other sporting activities, such as in mountain biking. Many mountain bikers, like the aforementioned skiers, also crave greater speeds and "air" time," Apple wrote. "However, persons in such sporting activities typically only have a qualitative sense as to speed and loft or 'air' time. For example, a typical snowboarding person might regularly exclaim after a jump that she 'caught' some 'big sky,' 'big air' or 'phat air' without ever quantitatively knowing how much time really elapsed in the air."

There are also other factors that extreme sportsmen sometimes assess qualitatively. For example, if a snowboarder goes down a double-diamond ski slope while a friend goes down a green, easy slope, when they both reach the bottom, the double-diamond snowboarder will have expended more energy than the other, generally, and will have worked up a sweat; while the green snowboarder will have had a relatively inactive ride down the slope. Currently, there is no method or system to quantitatively compare how rough their journeys were relative to one another.

This is where Apple is looking to step in with a device -- or series of devices -- capable of detecting and displaying a visual and quantitative measure of how much "air" time and, in certain aspects, how fast a user moves in a particular activity.



"A loft sensor senses a first condition that is indicative of the vehicle leaving the surface, and further senses a second condition indicative of the vehicle returning to the surface," the filing explains. "A microprocessor subsystem, e.g., a microcontroller, determines a loft time that is based upon the first and second conditions, and the loft time is thereafter displayed to a user of the apparatus by a display, e.g., a LCD or LED display."

Preferably, Apple says that a power module such as a battery would be included in the apparatus to power the several components. In addition, a housing would connect and protect the microprocessor subsystem and the user interface while it records data such as: loft time; a speed of the vehicle; a peak loft time; an average loft time; a total loft time; a dead time; a real activity time; an average speed; an indication that loft time is being displayed; an indication that speed is being displayed; an indication that dead time is being displayed; an indication that real activity time is being displayed; successive records of loft information; successive records of speed information; a distance traveled by the vehicle; a height achieved by the vehicle off of the surface; and an indication of a number of a successive record relative to all successive records.



Apple adds that, "In still another aspect, the invention includes a user interface for providing external inputs to the apparatus, including one or more of the following: a start/stop button for selectively starting and stopping the acquisition of data by the apparatus; a display-operate button for activating the display means selectively; a speed/loft toggle button for alternatively commanding a display of loft time information and speed information of the vehicle; means for commanding a display of successive records of loft time information selectively; means for commanding a display of successive records of speed information selectively; means for commanding a display of information corresponding to average loft time; means for commanding a display of information corresponding to average speed; means for commanding a display of total loft time; means for commanding a display of dead time; means for commanding a display of distance traveled by the vehicle; means for commanding a display of height achieved by the vehicle off of the surface; and means for commanding a display of real activity time."



Alternatively, or additionally, the loft sensor could be constructed with one of the following technologies: an accelerometer that senses a vibrational spectrum; a microphone assembly that senses a noise spectrum; a switch that is responsive to a weight of a user of the vehicle; a voltage-resistance sensor that generates a voltage indicative of a speed of the vehicle; and a plurality of accelerometers connected for evaluating a speed of the vehicle.

"The invention also provides, in another aspect, means for storing information including look-up tables with pitch-to-speed conversions for a plurality of vehicles," Apple says. "This is useful because different vehicles have different associated noise and/or sound spectrums associated with the vehicle. Accordingly, the invention in this aspect includes memory for storing the respective calibration information of the different vehicles (typically in a look-up table format) so that a user can utilize the invention on different vehicles and still determine speed accurately. Specifically, a particular pitch is associated with a particular speed for a particular vehicle; and that association is selectively made by the user."



The filing also talks at length about the significant usefulness in measuring power and comparing how strenuous one user is to another:

For example, suppose two users ski only blue, intermediate slopes with the exact same skill and aggressiveness except that one user chooses to sit in the bar for three hours having a couple of cocktails. At the end of an eight hour day--providing the power sensor is activated for the whole day--the skier who skied all eight hours will have a power measurement that is 8/5 that of his cocktail-drinking companion. They can thereafter quantitatively talk about how easy or how difficult their ski day was. As for another example, suppose a third friend skis only double-diamond slopes and he takes four hours out to drink beer. At the end of the day, his power measure may still be greater than his friends depending upon how hard he skied during his active time. He could therefore boast--with quantitative power data to back him up--that he had more exercise than either of his friends even though he was drinking half the day.

The 41-page patent filing dated just four months ago is credited three remotely located Apple engineers: Curtis Vock of Boulder, Colo., Peter Flentov of Carlisle, Mass., and Dennis Darcy of Dracut, Mass.
post #2 of 24
Is that an Apple hoverboard in one of the drawings??
post #3 of 24
I have nothing useful to add, I just want to snigger at the shape of the snowboard
post #4 of 24
I would seriously be the first in line to buy this thing.
post #5 of 24
This is such a niche market I don't think they will put this to market....unless they license it to a 3rd party.
post #6 of 24
"For example, a typical snowboarding person might regularly exclaim after a jump that she 'caught' some 'big sky,' 'big air' or 'phat air' without ever quantitatively knowing how much time really elapsed in the air."

Haha - I love it. Standing back and objectively analysing observations of people saying 'phat air.' Very neo-victorian.
post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by stellaclose View Post

This is such a niche market I don't think they will put this to market....unless they license it to a 3rd party.

I think you'd be surprised. Skiing/Snowboarding/Biking covers a decent amount of people. However, it doesn't compare to running/walking... so you could be right.

Either way, I'd be the first in line, too! This is amazing
post #8 of 24
ok. i like the iPod and the iPhone, but come on Apple, make some COMPUTERS.

i'm an avid skier. no, i'm an obsessive skier. trying to plan a trip to portillo to get myself through another summer. i have absolutely no interest in finding out if i flew 30 feet or 120 feet, or if i did it going 40 mph or 70 mph. i just want to cruise downhill in fresh powder, preferably through a nice glade. is there really a profitable market sector for this? the "snow reports" app is the only one i use for skiing. [iTrailmap is a massive battery drain]
post #9 of 24
Figuring out whether or not one is in "loft" is trivially easy with a good 3D accelerometer. If the path of motion is parabolic, then one is in the air.
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post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcarling View Post

Figuring out whether or not one is in "loft" is trivially easy with a good 3D accelerometer. If the path of motion is parabolic, then one is in the air.

have you ever skied a well-groomed trail at high speed? especially early in the season when there are "rollers" under every snowgun location.
post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by desarc View Post

ok. i like the iPod and the iPhone, but come on Apple, make some COMPUTERS.

i'm an avid skier. no, i'm an obsessive skier. trying to plan a trip to portillo to get myself through another summer. i have absolutely no interest in finding out if i flew 30 feet or 120 feet, or if i did it going 40 mph or 70 mph. i just want to cruise downhill in fresh powder, preferably through a nice glade. is there really a profitable market sector for this? the "snow reports" app is the only one i use for skiing. [iTrailmap is a massive battery drain]

I think this is a generation thing.

The article (and Apple's patent), implies that this is for skiers and snowboarders, but I think it's really just for snowboarders. They are just being inclusive and hopeful when it says it applies to skiers as well given that only competitive skiers would really be interested in this.

Where I live skiing and snowboarding are big, really big.

This thing would be really popular at my local Apple store, but mostly only with a younger crowd. The older folks who are into just skiing down the mountain in standard fashion are a different breed from most of the younger folks who almost exclusively (IMO and in my area), use snowboards.

Skiing with old-timey skis is fast becoming an older person's thing. It's like the difference between old roller skates and in-line skates. As an incredibly ancient person myself, I would argue that the older skates and skis have their points and that folks are really missing something by not using them anymore. However that doesn't change the reality that skis are halfway to being as anachronistic as model T cars and spats.
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post #12 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by desarc View Post

ok. i like the iPod and the iPhone, but come on Apple, make some COMPUTERS.

i'm an avid skier. no, i'm an obsessive skier. trying to plan a trip to portillo to get myself through another summer. i have absolutely no interest in finding out if i flew 30 feet or 120 feet, or if i did it going 40 mph or 70 mph. i just want to cruise downhill in fresh powder, preferably through a nice glade. is there really a profitable market sector for this? the "snow reports" app is the only one i use for skiing. [iTrailmap is a massive battery drain]

So never mind the latest product decisions, there are even whiners when Apple simply patents a random interesting idea.

Get over it, mate (which I'm sure you'll find incredibly easy to do).
post #13 of 24
I see this appealing to a small market of "Gotta have it" boarders and skiers. Maybe license it to Burton.

However, I can see how this would very useful for training of Olympic skiers and boarders.

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post #14 of 24
I don't really snowboard or ski (much to my friends' disappointment). Is that patent accurate? I didn't realise snowboarders spent so much time drinking!

And I agree, it's pretty funny to imagine some very formal person speaking about highly technical ideas and suddenly throwing out "phat air"!
post #15 of 24
This would be great to pair up with that 911 function Apple is devoping:
http://www.macrumors.com/2009/06/11/...y-phone-calls/
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post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by fintler View Post

I would seriously be the first in line to buy this thing.

I would be the second! Especially if it all worked via the iPhone.

If you look at the large market for wrist or bike mountable GPS devices you will quickly understand the size of this product possibility. To my knowledge, no motion tracking device on the market utilizes accelerometers to record complex actions such as "air time" or "G's" etc etc.

I race downhill mountain bikes and I know of no commercially available motion capture device that would allow you to compare data over a 3-4 minute race run which would precisely analyze things like the "smoothness" of your run (which is what determines a winning run) etc. This would be a huge tool for athletes in many many disciplines.

Now add music, the power of 3rd party apps, bluetooth accessories, web syncing, and Apple ease of use. Not to mention the fact there is already an installed user base of millions. Very Cool!
post #17 of 24
Freaking awesome. I'm a skier and I would totally buy this. Niche market? Skiers spend thousands of dollars a year on gear and passes. And there's enough of them to justify companies spending millions investing in ski resorts. Apple could market this at $400 and I would buy it the day it came out.
post #18 of 24
When your EXXXTREEEEME! lifestyle is interrupted by splattering into a tree, unintentionally soaring from a cliff, or being launched by a tidal wave into the gaping maw of a shark, your Nike + iPod will be the Black Box of your final moments of awesomeness.
post #19 of 24
well said
post #20 of 24
Interesting concept. I'll be curious to see how the device will "sit" into a ski boot or board. Data such as , vertical skied, speed, power, calories burned, loft, etc... may be useful to a certain percentage of the "riding" population. The question is how is it useful. Are these snow sports enthusiasts interested in tracking their progress over time or is this just for "bragging" rights.

According to the Snow Sports Industries of America their are approximately 7 million skiers in the U.S. That being said there are over 60 million skiers world wide. There are 14 million skiers in Japan (who knew). So there's definitely a market, but as one other poster wrote, running (i.e. nike+) is probably a better market for a device like this. That being said if they can provide useful data on how to improve my skiing performance I'd be game.

One last note, according to the SIA, skier days increased last year and snowboarding days decreased. This has been a trend over the last few years. part of the reason for this is the twin tip skis. one theory is that boarders have found they can do more on two boards as opposed to one and many are switching to the twin tip skis.

AH
post #21 of 24
I'm not sure where you live Virgil, but when I'm hucking cliffs at Mary Jane, or screaming down a tip to tip wide alley at A-Basin, I rarely see snow boarders. There are still plenty of extreme skiers in Colorado who would love this thing. Can't wait to email my friends the stats on some gnarley run.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

I think this is a generation thing.

The article (and Apple's patent), implies that this is for skiers and snowboarders, but I think it's really just for snowboarders. They are just being inclusive and hopeful when it says it applies to skiers as well given that only competitive skiers would really be interested in this.

Where I live skiing and snowboarding are big, really big.

This thing would be really popular at my local Apple store, but mostly only with a younger crowd. The older folks who are into just skiing down the mountain in standard fashion are a different breed from most of the younger folks who almost exclusively (IMO and in my area), use snowboards.

Skiing with old-timey skis is fast becoming an older person's thing. It's like the difference between old roller skates and in-line skates. As an incredibly ancient person myself, I would argue that the older skates and skis have their points and that folks are really missing something by not using them anymore. However that doesn't change the reality that skis are halfway to being as anachronistic as model T cars and spats.
post #22 of 24
Not that I'm into these sports but the concept is neat. The problem I have though is this, what is with the extra hardware? IPhone comes with a good amount of tech for this right now. They are probably thinking beyound iPhone, but still let's minimize the tech I the aid hardware

For bikers the ability to get velocity measurements via wheel rotation would be handy. I could actually see Apple having more success with a more general purpose bike transducer. The fact remains that there are far more reasonable bikers than there are extreme mountain bikers. In the end it might make more sense to simply build one device that suits all bikers.

It is innovation though and like the 911 patent suitable for attracting more customers to iPhone.


Dave
post #23 of 24
What gives - this patent was published in 2006 !

Sport monitoring systems
United States Patent 7054784
Inventors:
Flentov, Peter (Carlisle, MA, US)\t
Darcy, Dennis M. (Dracut, MA, US)\t
Vock, Curtis A. (Boulder, CO, US)\t
Application Number:
10/950897
Publication Date:
05/30/2006
Filing Date:
09/27/2004
post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by stellaclose View Post

This is such a niche market I don't think they will put this to market....unless they license it to a 3rd party.

It can't any more of a Niche than the Nike+ market. All the Park Junkies would really jump on this feature so they would have proof positive of their prowess and as a monitor to improve their performance. Not a Park Junkie at over 60, but I would have one to help improve my downhill performance and check my workout potential.
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