Patent application title: Exercise Machine Sensing Device
Jonah J Gardner (Wilmington, NC, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63B2400FI
Class name: Exercise devices having specific electrical feature monitors exercise parameter
Publication date: 2016-05-26
Patent application number: 20160144232
An exercise-diligence-encouragement and coaching system, providing a
small and widely configurable position-sensing device to existing
weightlifting machines which provide resistance by leveraging the weight
of a rack of vertically-stacked incremental weights. The position-sensing
device communicates with a mobile device kept in view of a user of the
weightlifting machine, to provide live instructions to the user and track
progress of the user over time and tailor future exercises. Location of
the device, type of sensor used, power source, and method of
communication are all variable.
1. A weightlifting training system, for use with a weightlifting machine,
comprising: sensor means for detecting the parameters of a weightlifting
exercise routine, logic means for generating data from said parameters,
communication means for delivery of said data to a mobile device, a
dedicated program running on said mobile device, controlling and
monitoring the function of said system, said program using said data to
track a number of repetitions to be performed during said routine and
coordinate steps of said exercise routine during performance of said
routine, in real time, and a display for providing instructions to a user
of said weightlifting machine.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein said dedicated program additionally uses said data to create a regimen of weightlifting exercise routines, schedule said routines, direct said routines, and coach a user as to performance of said routine, and tailor said regimen to said user.
3. The system of claim 1, wherein said display is the screen of said mobile device.
4. The system of claim 1, wherein said sensor means are used to detect that a set of weights has been moved to a particular position by either absolute location means or relative proximity means.
5. The system of claim 4, wherein said sensor means comprise a light emitter and light detector as absolute-location means.
6. The system of claim 5, wherein said sensor means locate said emitter and light detector in a single housing and comprises reflective tape positioned so as to reflect light emitted from said emitter onto said light detector when said set of weights has been moved to said particular position.
7. The system of claim 4, wherein said sensor means comprises ultrasonic-distance sensors as relative proximity means.
8. The system of claim 4, wherein said sensor means comprise electromagnetic sensors, such as a reed switch.
9. The system of claim 1, wherein said sensor means comprises accelerometer means for determining that a set of weights has slowed down or come to a stop, to detect the end of a weightlifting repetition.
10. The system of claim 1, wherein said sensor means comprise a weight-pin or other weight-retaining flange capable of sensing strain or weight, to detect the quantity of weight which is being lifted.
11. The system of claim 1, wherein said communication means comprises a wired connection.
12. The system of claim 11, wherein said wired connection is a cable that directly connects said system to said mobile device.
13. The system of claim 11, wherein said wired connection connects at least one of said system or said mobile device to a local network.
14. The system of claim 13, wherein both of said system and said mobile device are connected to a local network.
15. The system of claim 1, wherein said communication means comprises a wireless connection.
16. The system of claim 15, wherein said wireless connection connects said system to said mobile device by Bluetooth or another technology for conducting communication between two wireless devices.
17. The system of claim 15, wherein said wireless connection connects said system to a local network or a remote network by a wi-fi connection.
18. The system of claim 15, wherein said wireless connection connects said system and said mobile device by connecting both devices to a wi-fi connection of the same wi-fi network router.
19. The system of claim 1, wherein said mobile device is retained in a docking stand that is capable of retaining said mobile device in a position that is in view of a user during use of a weightlifting machine, said docking stand also being capable of transmitting data into said mobile device.
20. A weightlifting training system for use with a weightlifting machine, comprising: Sensor means for detecting the parameters of a weightlifting exercise routine, wherein said sensor means are used to detect that a set of weights has been moved to a particular position by either absolute location means or relative proximity means, wherein said sensor means comprise a light emitter and light detector as absolute location means, and retain said emitter and detector in a single housing, comprising reflective tape positioned so as to reflect light emitted from said emitter onto said light detector when said set of weights has been moved to said particular position, wherein said sensor means and reflective tape may be positioned either on the weights or the frame of a weightlifting machine, logic means for generating data from said parameters, communication means for delivery of said data to a mobile device, wherein said communication means comprise multiple alternative communication technologies to connect said system and said mobile device, including a directly-wired connection, a Bluetooth wireless connection, wireless communication via a common connection to a wi-fi network, as well as communication wherein either or both of said system and mobile device are connected to a network by a wired connection, a dedicated program running on said mobile device, said program using said data to track a number of repetitions to be performed during said routine and coordinate steps of said exercise routine during performance of said routine, in real time, said program using said data to create a regimen of weightlifting exercise routines, schedule said routines, direct said routines, and coach a user as to performance of said routine, and tailor said regimen to said user, and a docking stand that is capable of receiving and retaining said mobile device in a position in view of a user during use of a weightlifting machine, said docking stand capable of transmitting data into said mobile device.
 This application claims priority to provisional patent application
No. 61/948,015 filed on 4 Mar. 2014.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates to fields of exercise equipment and exercise recording and monitoring equipment, devices for exercise planning, live instruction and feedback, coaching, analyzing, scheduling. It also relates to wireless communications, pulleys, linkages, selectable weights, strain measuring devices, optical sensors, magnetic sensors, distance sensors, networked devices, wired communications, and smart-connection-powered devices.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Exercise is most plainly beneficial to increasing strength and endurance, but its potentially greatest benefit is that it is key to health and mobility with aging. It also has more immediate benefits of lowering stress, and of a more speculative nature, fostering a sense of well-being and organization. While these benefits are well-recognized, avoidance and ineffective exercise persist, despite countless variations of equipment, training professionals, structured routines, and methods of monitoring progress. Further, disorganized efforts to keep to a routine and poorly performed routines defeat the ability of an exercise routine to deliver its potential benefits
 One notoriously neglected and poorly-executed form of exercise is weightlifting. Strength exercises, and specifically weightlifting, are generally performed in short sets of controlled movements against a specifically selected continuous and consistent degree of resistance. The strict constraints of each exercise allow for targeting a small group of muscles in a short period of time, and allow for more rapid and efficient improvement in areas of relative weakness. The significant benefit provided by a relatively small quantity of acts, or repetitions, engenders the value of each set of repetitions a relatively high value to attaining the benefit of the regimen.
 Despite a weightlifting routine's relative time efficiency and small quantity of motions compared to other exercises, it is generally impractical and unhealthy to attempt performing a broad range of weightlifting exercises at any one time. Multiple routines must be expected in order to achieve the highest cumulative benefit.
 Because a regimen of weightlifting routines must be regularly repeated and contain differently-targeted exercises, weightlifting regimens, perhaps more than other exercise, must be scheduled. Because of weightlifting's ability to target areas of the greatest improvement, regimens should prioritize conducting routines tailored to those areas in order to offer the best benefits. Because the highest benefits come from meticulous attendance to quantity and quality of performing each repetition of each set of a cumulative weightlifting routine. Therefore, weightlifting routines have many potential modes of failure to provide their highest benefit.
 Therefore, in order to address these numerous and disparate potential modes of failure, there is a need to provide an effective tool and method which can foster and encourage behavior to attend to each tier of potential error: repetitions, sets, routines, schedules, and regimens.
 Further, in order for such a tool to be successful to aid an individual maintain a weightlifting regimen, in a way that previous tools and methods have not, for lack of pervasive reminder and encouragement, it is sensible to seek to provide a tool that takes advantage of the latest technologies which are pervasive in our lives.
 A related problem is the convenience of implementing such tools in settings where weightlifting may occur. In a home, weightlifting exercises are generally performed in a solitary manner, and there is little need for coordinating use of any particular space or equipment between multiple users. However, home weightlifting exercises are generally limited to a only a few pieces of equipment, and usually do not warrant the very large expense and space commitment to have a range of equipment to facilitate a comprehensive regimen's broad range of exercises. As a result, good weightlifting regimens are most reasonably made practicable at a commercial gym.
 Commercial gyms can provide a wide range of exercises, including cardiovascular-benefiting classes and continuous-movement machines such as treadmills and elliptical machines, but those are generally able to be neatly used amongst many users, simply by the ordinary nature of a class beginning and ending at a pre-arranged time and waiting for someone to complete their use of a treadmill in a reasonably estimable amount of time. However, the great range of weightlifting exercise machines that are used in any individual's routine require many people sharing space to coordinate turns and attempt to be courteous to others by not consuming too much time on any particular machine. Without a plan for using each machine, a weightlifter may select exercises at random, fail to do an optimal number of sets or fail to complete enough repetitions in sets.
 Therefore, because an expectation of timely use and coordination of machine use is a large factor in regular performance of a consistent series of exercises, it would be beneficial if the tool, with which to provide an individual a better way to use the present pervasive technologies to perform weightlifting repetitions, sets, routines, schedules, and regimens, could be tailored to streamline each machine's use, and conveniently conduct use of each machine according to a strictly conducted and timed set of steps.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention is generally embodied in the form of a small sensor device that mounts to either the frame or weights of a weightlifting machine that provides resistance by use of a linkage or system of pulleys to translate the motion of an exercise into lifting an incrementally-selectable number of vertically-stacked weights. The sensor device can use a variety of sensors to detect the position of the weights and then communicate data about the position of the selected weights to a mobile device, preferably a smart phone.
 To use the data communicated from the sensor device, a mobile device runs an application to count each time the device has registered data that corresponds to the weights reaching the position corresponding to a "repetition," where a single motion of an exercise has been completed and will then be returned to a starting position, in order to be repeated.
 To encourage the exerciser to finish a set of repetitions, the application presents instructions and a count of how many repetitions they've performed or have left to complete. While exercising, the mobile device can be held atop a stand that can be elevated and easily relocated relative to any user or machine in order to afford a view of the application's instructions on the screen of the mobile device. Convenient viewing allows the exercise to be performed without disturbing correct use of a machine.
 The application also has functions to tabulate use and performance of each sort of exercise, coordinate the exercise within a routine, schedule the routine according to a built in calendar, track performance and conformity to such exercise routines, and help develop better-tailored regimens for exercise, as time goes-on. The application can also issue reminders to prevent forgetting or neglecting to exercise.
 All embodiments of the invention comprise at least one component from each of three essential categories of components, or otherwise provide the function of any three, in the case of a component that can function in more than one category. The categories are: sensors, communication methods and devices, and power.
 Sensors include optical, distance, and electromagnetic sensors. Whichever sensor is used, it is monitored by a logic component, preferably a microcontroller, to translate sensor signals into meaningful, communicable data. Communications include wireless and wired connections. Wireless communications preferred are device-to-device, such as Bluetooth and device-to-network, such as Wifi. Preferred wired communications include network cables, serial connections, and smart connections, such as USB. Power devices include batteries, wired DC power, wired AC power, and smart connections, such as usb.
 Displays are a necessary fourth category, but generally are less varied than the other three. It is contemplated that a variety of forms of displays are possible, whether wired, wireless, or built into the sensor device or the stand. If built into the sensor device, a mobile device may be unnecessary, but preferred embodiments use mobile devices that carry a display screen and receive the data communicated from the sensor device, to provide greater flexibility in affording convenient usage and furthering the goal of the invention to encourage regular personal tracking of one's own routine by embedding the behavior in devices that will be carried with users as part of their existing daily routines.
 A conceived accessory in a future embodiment would include a "smart" weight-engagement pin. Strain-measuring devices are able to both support a load as well as provide a measurement of the load applied to it. A typical weight-retaining pin used in vertical weight-rack machines could be replaced with one that employs strain measurement devices. Such a pin might also be equipped with a communications device, and thus be able to communicate the amount of weight lifted by an exerciser and thereby provide another dimension of information communicated to the application for tabulation.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIGS. 1 and 2 show a weightlifting system of the prior art that provides resistance with vertically-stacked weights
 FIG. 1: shows a prior art weightlifting system, at rest
 FIG. 2: shows the prior art weightlifting system of FIG. 1, with some weights elevated in accordance with articulation of the handles of the system.
 FIGS. 3-11 show exemplary embodiments of the present invention which apply sensor modules to the frame and vertically-stacked weights of a weightlifting machine
 FIG. 3 shows a sensor module which uses optical sensors, in wireless connection with a mobile device, located atop the weights, with the weights at rest.
 FIG. 4 shows the same embodiment of FIG. 3, but with the weights elevated.
 FIG. 5 shows one assembly of an embodiment of the present invention, exposed to show its internal components.
 FIG. 6 shows a sensor module which uses optical sensors, in wired connection with a mobile device, located on the frame, with the weights elevated.
 FIG. 7 shows a close view of the weights and frame of the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, but from a reversed angle of view.
 FIG. 8 shows a sensor module which uses distance sensors, in wireless connection to the mobile device, located atop the weights, with the weights at rest.
 FIG. 9 shows the same embodiment of FIG. 8, but with the weights elevated.
 FIG. 10 shows a sensor module which uses distance sensors, in wired connection with a mobile device, located on the frame, with the weights elevated.
 FIG. 11 shows an embodiment of a stand used in coordination with a mobile device, ready to communicate with a sensor module via either a wireless or wired connection, with the machine in a rest position.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, a weightlifting exercise machine 100 is shown. It uses a rack 101 of vertically-stacked weights to provide resistance to performance of an exercise. The degree of resistance provided by the machine 100 is set by selecting a quantity of incremental weight from the rack 101, and engaging that selected stack 102 to the machine 100. The machine 100 translates the cumulative vertical force provided by the weight of the selected stack 102 into continuous or consistent resistance against the upward arc of inclined-press weightlifting exercise.
 In FIG. 1, the machine 100 is at a rest position, with its handles 103 at the lowest position of its arc of travel, and all of the weights in the rack 101 sit on the bottom of the machine's frame 104.
 In FIG. 2, the machine 100 is in a completion position, with its handles 103 at the end of the arc of the user's lift motion, and the stack of weights 102 is elevated to a completion height.
 Referring now to FIG. 3, an embodiment of the present invention is shown as it would appear in use, as applied to parts of a machine 300 that is similar to the machine 100 that is shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. The machine's rack 301 is at a rest position, sitting on the machine's frame 303. An optical-sensor module 302 sits atop the rack 301, and reflective tape 304 has been applied to the frame 303 on a vertical face 305 that is adjacent to the end of the rack 301.
 A mobile device 306 is in wireless communication with the optical-sensor module 302, and is running a dedicated application 309 that allows the mobile device 306 to control the operation of the module 302 and receive transmitted data sent from the module 302.
 Positioning the module 302 on top of the rack 301 is not dependent upon a wireless connection. It is conceived that an embodiment could provide a wired connection to the module 302. There are many known methods of providing a wire to a moving object, such as self-retracting wire handling devices and coiled wires that simply stretch to a certain length when pulled, and then return to a short length when not in tension.
 FIG. 4 shows the same machine 300 and locations for the optical module 302 and reflective tape 304 as in FIG. 3, but shows the machine 300 in a completion position. In this position, a selected stack of weights 401 that have been engaged to the machine 300 have been lifted to a completion height. When the stack 401 attains this completion height, the optical module 302, located atop the stack 401, has been elevated to a position at which light emanating from a light emitter 402 in the module 302 reflects off of the reflective tape 304, and is detected by a light detector 403 in the module 302.
 At the moment that the light detector 403 detects the light from the reflective tape 304, a microcontroller (such a microcontroller is shown in FIG. 5, as microcontroller 502 of a sensor module 500 capable of functioning as the optical-sensor module 302) understands that the detector 403 has detected a condition that requires the microcontroller 502 to generate data representing detection of the sensed condition. The microcontroller 502 then sends the data through a wireless connection 307, transmitting the data to the mobile device 306.
 The dedicated program 309 running on the mobile device 306 recognizes the data as representing that the stack 401 reached its completion height. The dedicated program 309 then subtracts 1 from a running count of how many times a lift of the stack remain to be repeated in a current set of lifts of the exercise.
 FIG. 5 shows an embodiment of a sensor module 500, with the housing 501's components exposed. The sensor module 500 shown contains a microcontroller 502. Microcontroller 502 is a commercially-available unit that includes components that enable it to communicate wirelessly and via wired connections. It is equipped with a USB port 503, and a DC-in port 504. Sensor module 500 also includes batteries 505, an optical light detector sensor 506, a light emitter 507, and an ultrasonic distance sensor 508.
 Many embodiments are conceived, the module 500 representing a versatile variation. Microcontroller 502 is merely one of many commercially available alternatives. Other microcontrollers with fewer embedded features are also conceived as functional alternatives. Such microcontrollers may require augmentation with features that might otherwise have been embedded, such as a wifi antenna.
 In addition to the microcontroller 502, all embodiments require at least one sensor, at least one power source, and at least one form of communication. Therefore, foreseen embodiments of the claimed invention are capable of limited- or versatile-configurations. For example, of the features shown in sensor module 500, optical sensor module 302 may possess as few components as: a housing 501, a microcontroller 502, batteries 505, a light detector sensor 506, and a light emitter 507.
 FIGS. 6 and 7 depict an embodiment of the invention that also employs an optical sensor module 302. Like FIG. 4, the machine 300 and its stack of selected weights 401 are both in a completion position. FIG. 6 differs from FIG. 4 in that optical sensor module 302 is applied to the frame 303 on a vertical face 305 that is adjacent to the end of the stack 401, and reflective tape 304 has been applied to the selected stack of weights 401. The reflective tape 304 is held vertically alongside the stack 401, adjacent to the vertical face 305, by use of an error correcting bracket 601.
 The embodiment shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 is also distinguished from the embodiment shown in FIG. 4 by use of a wired connection 602, shown here as a USB cable, in place of wireless connection 307. Wired connection 602 directly connects module 302 to the mobile device 306. Given that the user of the machine 300 will only be a few feet away, the wired connection 602 is of similarly useful range as wireless connection 307, as even length-limited smart connections, like USB cables, are already commonly available in lengths of 12 feet or more. Insofar as module 302 is shown in FIG. 6 as using a usb cable, a wired connection that carries both data as well as being able to provide power from a mobile device, it does not necessarily require any of the following: an antenna for any wireless communications, pairing procedures of a Bluetooth connection, batteries, identification with a local wife network as a connected device, nor a local router or remote network, such as a cellular network.
 FIG. 8 shows an embodiment of the present invention which uses distance sensing, rather than optical sensing, for detection of the moment when machine 300 attains a completion position. Machine 300 and rack of weights 301 are shown in a rest position. Distance sensor module 801 sits atop the rack 301, employing an ultrasonic distance sensor 802 to emit an ultrasonic wave 803 toward the underside face 804 of the frame 303.
 FIG. 9 is similar to FIG. 8, but shows the selected stack of weights 401 in a completion position. The ultrasonic distance sensor module 802 monitors the time taken for the ultrasonic wave 803 to return and communicates that value to the microcontroller 502. When the stack 401 reaches its completion height, the value communicated to the microcontroller 502 will equal the value set to correspond to the condition for which the microcontroller 502 is required to generate data representing detection of the sensed condition. The microcontroller 502 then sends data to the mobile device 306 via the wireless connection 307. Like sensor 302 in FIG. 3, 801 is still capable of being located atop the stack 401, even if it were equipped with a wired connection.
 FIG. 10 shows the distance sensor module 801 of FIGS. 8 and 9, but relocated to the underside face 804 of the frame 303, emitting the ultrasonic wave 803 downward from the ultrasonic distance sensor 802, toward the top of the stack 401. Despite its change in location and direction of wave emission, the function of distance sensor module 801 is identical to its behavior when the module 801 is located on the stack 401. By being positioned on the frame 303, a wired connection 602 it is easily run down the frame 303 to the mobile device 306. However, distance sensor module 801 could just as easily use a wireless connection, in a manner similarly suggested for optical sensor module 302 in FIGS. 3 and 4.
 FIG. 11 shows the mobile device 306 retained in a stand 1100, positioned closely to machine 300, in convenient view of a user sitting in seat 1101. The mobile device 306 is shown equipped for either a wireless connection 307 or wired connection 602 with a sensor module. The mobile device 306 is running a dedicated application 309 that allows the mobile device 306 to control the operation of any connected sensor modules, and receive such modules' data, in order to provide exercise instruction to the user in seat 1101.
 The stand 1100 is depicted in a desirable configuration, which is--easily repositioned about the vicinity of a user to provide an optimal view. With respect to its adjustment for use with machine 300, Its low-profile tripod base 1102 minimizes the risk of intruding upon space near the user's legs, and its height--height-adjustable stem 1103 allows for users to adjust the elevation of the mobile device 306 to minimize craning the user's neck, in order to view the instructions given by the application 309. The wired connection 602 can be run either outside of the stand 1100, or inside, the stem 1103, to minimize any risk of the user tripping or becoming entangled with wired connection 602.