9 Jun

The Electronic Running Partner


The relationship you have with your running buddy transcends that of a regular friendship; you are privy to their split times, their PBs, and know what time they can realistically hit for the 10k next week. In all, it is a person you can share information that your partner really doesn't care about. A new creation, however, may be set to sever this long-standing bond, with the imminent arrival of Joggobot, an electronic drone that can accompany you on your runs.

Programmed by a smartphone app, Joggobot uses a built-in camera that locks on to a customised T-shirt to ensure it stays aligned, or in front, of the runner. Shaped similar to a helicopter, the user can control the pace and height it stays at.

The system is under ongoing development at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. One of the programmers, Chad Toprak, commented: "Social joggers have partners they can run with. But sometimes they aren't available, so the next best thing could be a robot. It's a really unique feeling to be running with it. The coach mode basically tries to push you to your limits."

The Joggobot can oscillate between two settings: of companion if the runner wants to maintain a regular pace, or coach mode, if a more challenging speed is required. Even though the battery only lasts 20 minutes, Chad feels the coach mode is beneficial for increasing speed: "It flies in front of you at a very fast speed and you've got to try and catch up. I've tried running and sprinting with it and I can't catch up with it."

The aims of the Joggobot seem to be to motivate runners when their companion is unable to make it, and to act as an accurate pacer - albeit for the maximum time for 20 minutes. Whether it's as willing to listen to your ongoing ailments, blisters, and split times as your regular running partner remains to be seen.