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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Lean Right In To LEO

Don't we love electronic gadgets. And aren't we infused with enthusiasm over fitness, becoming fit, staying that way. And then, before all of that, there is the fixation on dieting and losing weight. Put them all together and you have the perfect storm of intention prodding energy to be directed toward:
  1. Losing weight;
  2. Using a gadget;
  3. Working out.
"I lost half my body weight. I looked like a stick. I started lifting weights, and I realized that there is no product out there that allows you to measure muscle activity and growth. It just didn't exist. Certainly not like there is for measuring heart rate and calories."
" In 2012 I had some great students come along. We really got serious about it and we built a fully functional electromyographical mobile system. This is something you can wear and walk around and use."
"For example, when you're cycling, you are supposed to pull with your hamstrings."
"We even came to the idea that we could use it [the LEO] for injury prevention. Most injuries in cycling and running are self-induced."
Leonard MacEachern, professor, department of electronics, Carleton University, Ottawa

Just as well Dr. MacEachern was in the university's department of electronics. He was using heart-rate monitors in his weight loss program, and thought there must be a similar electronic device for the purpose of monitoring muscle contractions, lactic acid buildup and other indicators to assist in furthering knowledge about just how successful his exercise program was, and to inform him whether or not he was actually doing things properly. A device that might warn him whether he might be causing injury to himself.

But he discovered soon enough that there was nothing out there to fit the bill, that technology hadn't yet caught up with the need for people exercising to monitor the key components of their body functions and reactions to exercise regimens and possibly undue stress they might be unaware of. Having that information available to them on such a personal level could enable them to correct deficiencies and re-direct their movements while at the same time alerting to the potential of self-harm.

GestureLogic: Wearable computing monitors athletes' muscles
Engineering professor Leonard MacEachern of Carleton University, along with his team of students, has developed technology that by using a band similar to a tensor bandage only with high tech sensors and worn on the thigh while cycling or running, an athlete can reduce injury by being able to track things like lactic acid build up etc. They can then adjust their work out. Photo taken at 13:51 on June 25, 2014. (Photo by Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen)

With the help of some of his students exercising their creative abilities and imagination the result was a product that he and his team named LEO. It is a device anchored within a band constructed of conductive fibres wrapping around an individual's upper thigh which then relays data to a personal device like an iPhone or Android device. That information captured by LEO renders details such as which muscles in the thigh are firing, how emphatically, the distance being covered, how much lactic acid builds in the muscle; heart rate, and energy burned.

This kind of contraction monitoring, lactic-acid buildup and energy expended enables LEO to warn an athlete when an activity, or the manner in which it is performed may result in an injury. GestureLogic, the company that Mr. MacEachern built after six years of technological manipulation perfecting a wearable computing device to map muscle contractions to produce LEO, plans to target the device initially to the running and cycling crowd.
The Ottawa-designed and produced device that GestureLogic with its 11 employees is now prepared to market plans to bring it to a crowdfunding platform on Indiegogo. One of any number of products identified as "wearable computers", and for which the takeup among gadget and health-conscious consumers has enormous potential, LEO has high hopes for an initial sales impact. Hoping to raise at least $50,000 to set GestureLogic on the right sales track through the Indiegogo campaign the company plans to offer LEO for a discounted $179 during the campaign.

After which LEO's recommended retail sales price would rise to $299. The experience gained by the company through its social fundraising campaign will help Mr. MacEachern in setting future pricing and identifying marketing device initiatives. But according to technology researcher BCC Research, the market for wearable computing devices is set to soar.

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