How to Quantify “Getting Back in the Game”

Sports injuries are a major roadblock for athletes, keeping them from playing their best, or even at all. Even after an injury is healed, athletes have to build back up muscles that atrophied over recovery time.  During rehab time, patients undergo different exercise routines to build the muscle that was left unused while the injury was healing. But how do the trainers know when it is safe to allow the athlete back in the field?

One way to quantify the “readiness” of the player is by using an Isokinetic Dynamometer machine to determine how much power the questioned muscle can exert and how that compares to its counterpart.  For example, let’s say a female athlete tears her right ACL. Throughout her rehabilitation, her trainers will set her up on an Isokinetic Dynamometer machine (Figure 1) to determine the power exerted by the right quadricep and hamstring, which are muscles that commonly experience atrophy during ACL recovery, and compare it to the power of her left quadricep and hamstring. Based on the presettings of range of motion, force, and speed, the device can calculate the torque provided by the athlete and then multiply it by the constant speed (isokinetic part) to find the power exerted by those specific muscles. It is obvious that time is needed to heal, but every patient is unique and time could vary. It is important to find a quantitative way to determine when each patient is back to normal strength and this design does just that.

One patent of an isokinetic dynamometer is the “Exercise Physical Rehabilitation and Testing Method and Apparatus” (Patent number: 5,722,937), which was filed in April 17, 1996 and issued on March 3, 1998.  Invented by James F. Smith, it is still used by assignee Cybex International, Inc to this day.  U.S. classifications are as followed: 601/23; 601/24; 482/4; 482/137; 482/142; 482/908.

Figure 1: Set-up of limb to lever arm and dynamometer. The user pushes leg up and back and the dynamometer, comprised of the motor and cycloidal speed reducer, monitors and alerts the computer if the motor needs to slow down or speed up to keep a constant speed depending on the torque exerted by the user.

The main claims of a total 30 for this patent is to help athletes and patients in rehabilitation for muscle atrophy or decreased muscle strength by evaluating the strength of a targeted muscle by forcing the patient to keep a constant speed through resistance. This machine consists of a base with a track to allow adjustability of the chair to customize the fit for each user. There is also a lever arm, where the user will push against during exercises, connected to the chair and to the dynamometer. The dynamometer is comprised of a motor to change torque and a cycloidal speed reducer with a high and low speed shaft to keep a constant speed during exercise (Figure 1).  This machine helps build muscle fibers by forcing the patient/athlete to provide maximum force to move a lever arm while the machine provides resistance (or takes away) to keep the patient moving at a constant speed. Not only can this machine provide biofeedback on the power of the muscle to help physical therapists plan an exercise regimen to help patients, but it can also help athletes build their muscles and ensure their body is balanced to avoid straining and injury. This device has various protocols that subjects the muscles of the user to “concentric or eccentric motion in isotonic or isokinetic modes or continuous passive motion.”

Physical Therapists, Athletic Trainers and athletes will primarily use this machine.  It is very bulky and expensive, so only established facilities can afford this technology.  This product helps physical therapists and athletic trainers assess the muscle strength of their patients to determine what the state of the targeted muscle strength is and help them prepare an exercise routine to get their patients to where they need to be to be healthy and avoid further injury. Athletes can also use this technology to grow muscles due to the max force and full range of motion the lever and program provide.  This product is designed for determining when muscles have developed enough to start playing again after suffering from atrophy during rehabilitation.

Figure 2: Schematic of Isokinetic Concentric mode feedback loop depending on the performance of the user.  If threshold torque is too high, the motor will accelerate. If threshold torque is too low, motor will decelerate to zero speed.

Patients sit in an upright position and strapped at the waist and thigh to stabilize the body and to force the patient to only use the targeted muscle. Next, after setting up the machine with the desired weight and speed, the patient must push and pull a lever arm as hard as they can.  The lever arm, attached to a low speed shaft of a cycloidal speed reducer follows a negative feedback and the machine. For example, Isokinetic Concentric mode, the mode most commonly used for determining the power produced by the muscle, uses the dynamometer control board to determine the angle (boundaries of range of motion) of the lever arm and signals the dynamometer to slow down to a stop until the user pushes the lever arm in the other direction. The torque on the dynamometer control board, which is measured by strain gauges, is sampled every two milliseconds.  The computer monitors the the measured torque (force of the limb attached to the lever arm multiplied by the distance to the targeted muscle) and compares it to the threshold torque. If the measured is greater than the threshold, the motor will accelerate (less resistance) based on the magnitude of the torque and the direction of the measured torque to approach the isokinetic speed. If the measured torque is not sufficient, the motor will decelerate to zero speed until sufficient torque is met (Figure 2).

Compared to other designs, this patent is less costly, smaller in size, and has less parts. Also, the speed reducer incorporated in this design does not create a high pitch noise that is  disruptive in quiet clinical scenes, which was commonly found in previous designs. As for the infrastructure of the machine, this new design fixes a previous problem of slack resistance during start up, which creates a loose and not smooth feeling for patients (also known as backlash). The slack would allow for additional bending torque on the shafts, which creates that loose and unnatural feel. This design fixes this problem because the cycloidal speed reducer specific to this design has a higher torsional stiffness. The cycloidal speed reduces also has a longer life and will reduce the overall effect of backlash throughout time. This patent is still the primary patent for CSMi Medical Solution’s HumacNorm Testing and Rehabilitation System, so it is reasonable to assume these claims are valid and the design is reliable and effective!

 

 

Source:

Smith, J.F. (1998). U.S. Patent No. 5,722,937. Retrieved from http://pdfpiw.uspto.gov/.piw?PageNum=0&docid=05722937&IDKey=C45CA52352DA%0D%0A&HomeUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fpatft.uspto.gov%2Fnetacgi%2Fnph-Parser%3FSect1%3DPTO1%2526Sect2%3DHITOFF%2526d%3DPALL%2526p%3D1%2526u%3D%25252Fnetahtml%25252FPTO%25252Fsrchnum.htm%2526r%3D1%2526f%3DG%2526l%3D50%2526s1%3D5%2C722%2C937.PN.%2526OS%3DPN%2F5%2C722%2C937%2526RS%3DPN%2F5%2C722%2C937

 

Body Composition Testing for All

Patent Number: US 6,631,292 B1

Filing Date: March 23, 2001

Issue Date: October 7, 2003

Inventor(s):  Rudolph J. Liedtke (Grosse Pointe Park, MI)

Assignee: RJL Systems, Inc. (Mt. Clemens, MI)

U.S. Classification: 600/547

Claims: 20

                                                               

Figure 1. A functional block diagram of a single aspect of a device based on the invention

 

A bioelectrical impedance analyzer is an apparatus used to determine bioelectrical impedance measurements. This particular analyzer is used to measure a particular area of impedance in a subject. This works by having a constant source of current where the currents input is controlled by a feedback loop. This feedback loop uses an error signal that represents the difference between the actual impedance of the area measured, the target current. The analyzer also contains an impedance measuring circuit that detects and output voltage from the area of the subject. This circuit splits the measured output voltage into a reactance output signal and a resistance output signal. The image above shows a block diagram of the electrical components within this analyzer.

Bioelectrical impedance analyzers can be used to find measurements within the human body. These measurements    can then be used to determine many different things about the body being tested. Using these measurements, blood flow, cardiac output, lean body mass, and body fat can be found for the tested individual. This invention of the bioelectrical impedance analyzer differs from those before it because it separates the electrical components of the analyzer from the individual using it. This is different from previous designs that directly attached electrodes to the individual. Another difference in this invention its temperature insensitivity. This allows the analyzer to be easily portable compared to its related technologies.

This analyzer invention had 20 claims outlining the main components of this device. These claims all referred to the electrical components of the analyzer. The main claims of this invention are that the constant current sources input current is controlled by an internal feedback loop that uses error signals to calculate an output. Another main claim is that the impedance measuring circuit is made to give out both a reactance and a resistance output signal.

This particular bioelectrical impedance analyzer invention would be ideal for any individual who is concerned about their body composition. It is easily portable and safe to use. For example, an individual who is looking to cut body fat, but doesn’t want to pay for the expensive body fat testing, would benefit from this analyzer. This analyzer would also be good for people who are body builders that travel often. This way they would have a way to test their body composition so that they could stay on track with their goals. Having had personal experience using a portable bioelectrical impedance analyzer, I think this would be ideal for someone wanting a close estimate on different body composition measurements. Even though the measurements aren’t as accurate as some other more expensive and invasive techniques, these portable analyzers work great and are more easily accessible. It is interesting to think about how this analyzer will advance and become more accurate in the future.

Reference

Liedtke, Rudolph J. (2003). United States Patent No. US6,631,292B1. Retrieved

from https://patents.google.com/patent/US6631292B1/en

Just Trying To Reach 10,000 Or Competing To Step Above The Rest – How Do Wrist Pedometers Count Our Steps?

People everywhere are getting their steps in. Whether they’re attempting to reach 10,000 steps a day or participating in competitions with friends, family, or coworkers to see who can step the most, people are moving – and they want to know exactly how much. Wrist fitness trackers with built in pedometers have become a popular mode for individuals to track their daily activity, but how do these devices work?

Let’s look at Apple Incorporated’s Wrist Pedometer Step Detection technology. This technology uses motion data to determine a force comparison threshold that can be used to accurately count steps while a user is running and walking.

An illustration of a person using a wrist pedometer for step detection, included in United States Patent No. US20140074431A1

 

Patent title: Wrist Pedometer Step Detection

Patent number: US20140074431A1

Patent filing date: 2012-09-10

Patent issue date: 2014-03-13

Inventor: Yash Rohit Modi

Assignee: Apple Inc

U.S. classification: G01C22/006 Pedometers

How many claims: 18

Forces acting on a wrist pedometer can be associated with user movement, specifically when they’re walking or running. The force of gravity as well as the forces exerted by the user against the force of gravity are measured by the pedometer; changes in forces acting on the device can be used to determine step count as well as type of exercise. While standing the force detected by the pedometer is 1G (one times the force of gravity). When a user is pushing against the ground to step forward the force detected by the pedometer can rise above 1G, and while the user is between steps the force detected by the pedometer can go below 1G. The pedometer can detect when a user takes a step by monitoring forces and determining when the 1G threshold is crossed.

Forces are compared based off magnitude and frequency to accurately count user steps. Other pedometer technologies worn at the trunk have used a 0.2G comparison threshold to account for steps, meaning when the pedometer experiences a for change of at least 0.2G one step will be added onto the step count. This threshold has been set to prevent noise and standing movements from being accounted for in step count.  However, the force differential experienced by wrist pedometers change with alternating steps. With the step on the side opposing the pedometer, the force acting on the pedometer is often less than 0.2G and may not be detected by the device with this threshold in place. To overcome this issue, this devices step algorithm has included frequency of threshold crossing to account for opposing steps. If the comparison threshold has been crossed twice over a set step time, then the technology will account for two steps rather than one. This prevents the technology from missing steps – thus, increasing device accuracy.

Motion data is also utilized in this technology to account for user activity and adjust parameters appropriately count steps . Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) is used to determine dominant frequency of motion and determine user activity. If the dominant frequency is below run threshold, then steps are counted for within walking parameters, described above. If the dominant frequency is above run threshold, then steps are counted for within running parameters. While running, there is a reduction in change of force acting on the pedometer; the change of parameters takes this into account and utilizes this information to properly account for steps.

Unlike other step counting technologies on the market, this product has improved accuracy in step count. The step counting algorithm has parameters that better define noise and non-walking movement as well as a mode to account for the imbalance in force acting on the wrist pedometer during walking. Less steps are unaccounted for and less random movements are counted – making for more accurate step counts.

There are a number of pedometer technologies that exist on the market today. Regardless of brand and step counting algorithm – these technologies are giving indiviudals the ability to count their steps and measure their fitness levels, promoting an active lifestyle for those who utilize them.

Reference

Modi, Yash Rohit. (2014). United States Patent No. US20140074431A1. Retrieved from https://patents.google.com/patent/US20140074431A1/en

Patent Blog Post: Fitbit’s Wearable Heart Rate Monitor

Perhaps you’ve been barraged by emails from Fitbit that try and get you to buy one of their products during one of their many sales. Perhaps you’re a trendy techie and have a wearable in the form of a Galaxy or Apple Watch. Or perhaps you’re simply the owner of a smartphone made within the past few years. All these technologies have heart rate monitoring built into them from the get-go, and it is increasingly hard to get away from gadgets that don’t have some form of heart monitoring. With how ubiquitous the technology has gotten, I would like to look today at one of the patents put forward by Fitbit, one of the more popular brands when it comes to wearable fitness trackers. For this post, I’ll be using the information put forward by Google Patents, seen here.

One of the many figures in the patent, detailing the backside of the wearable.

The patent is simply titled as, “Wearable heart rate monitor,” and has a patent number of US8945017B2. It was originally filed on June 3rd, 2014, and was then approved on February 3rd, 2015. This makes the time to issue a little under a year, which is quite fast for an electronics product. The two inventors credited in the patent are Subramaniam Venkatraman and Shelten Gee Jao Yuen. Looking at the other patents associated with them, Venkatraman seems to have worked on more navigational devices, while Jao Yuen has worked on several other gyroscope-related projects. The assignee is, of course, Fitbit Inc. themselves. Officially, one of the classifications of the patent is, “signal processing specially adapted for physiological signals or for diagnostic purposes for noise prevention, reduction or removal.” This one patent has 30 different claims to its name.

Of the 30 different claims in the patent, many of them tie into 2 main claims. The first is that the wearable heart monitor has a way to efficiently, accurately, and quickly determine the heart rate of the user. The second is to ensure that the wearable is capable of compiling the heart rate monitor’s data, including the heart rate data. This patent is aimed at both casual and advanced fitness enthusiasts, as the data gleaned from the wearable is handy to track. Runners, in particular, would find this tempting as it also mentions step tracking and other forms of movement.

The heart rate monitor works by using a waveform sensor, which reads signals at the surface of the skin. These signals are sent to the rest of the device, where the data is processed. The raw data from the sensor is rough and has a lot of noise from several factors, including movement and moisture. To remove the noise, the data has to be passed through several filters. From that data, a heart rate can be determined, and then presented to the user. Unlike the monitors of prior ages, this heart rate monitor would not rely upon disposable components, instead simply being able to be used multiple times by wearing it. In addition, the heart rate tracker would track more than just heart rate, including details about steps.

References:

Venkatraman, S., & Yuen, S. G. J. (2014). Wearable heart rate monitor. Retrieved from https://patents.google.com/patent/US8945017B2/en

Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Measuring Watch

Patent title: Blood pressure and heart rate measuring watch

Patent number: US06084961

Patent filing date: 1979-10-15

Patent issue date: 1982-05-25

Inventor(s):Ronald L. Broadwater Russell R. Haynes Samah A. Mitry

Assignee (if applicable): TECH ENGR AND DESIGN

U.S. classification:  G04G21/025

Claims: 16

Figure 1. This figure shows the watch itself and the sensor on the watch band part.

Summary:

This invention is a portable blood pressure and heart rate monitoring device that is in a wrist watch format. Blood pressure and heart rate signal is measured by the sensor on the watch that attached to wrist when it’s wear by patient. This wrist can measure systolic and diastolic pressure and heart accurately and quickly, as well as tell time. In addition, with this compact format, patient can wear it in many circumstances and operate it without lots of professional knowledge.

People who like to do exercise and elder people might be interested in this invention.  people who do exercise often might want to know there heart rate in order to control their heart rate in a certain range, so that their exercise effect can be the most ideal for them. For elder people who potentially or actually have heart problems, a portable heart rate and blood pressure monitor like this invention would be ideal for them to monitor their heart condition, so that they can find treatment before the condition become worse.

In order to achieve the monitoring function, a piezoelectric transducer is placed on the watch band. when patient wear it, the transducer attach the radial artery,and it will generate electrical pressure impulse which correspond to the magnitude of blood pressure. The highest impulse is recognized as systolic impulse, and the lowest impulse is recognized as diastolic impulse. Also, a time counter is employed to measure the heart rate. There are also some prior art of this type health monitor. For example, US. Pat. No. 3’807’388. with this device, heart rate is measured by counting heart beat in a known frequency, and the heart beat is then related a particular average heart rate. Since that device does not measure the heart rate directly, it can be somewhat inaccurate.

I choose this patent because smart watch is currently a popular wearable health product, and it’s getting more and more developed. I am surprised that this patent was issued in 1979 which is about 40 years before. It seems this type compact wearable technology is now more commonly accepted by customers. The concept to bring convince of health monitoring from hospital to everyone’s side is a kind of evolution of medical system.

WRIST EXERCISE DEVICE

Patent title: Wrist exercise device

Patent number: US3924851 A

Patent filing date: Oct 25, 1974

Patent issue date: Dec 9, 1975

Inventor(s): Winston Herbert

Assignee (if applicable): Winston Herbert

U.S. classification:  482/105

Claims: 1

FIG. 1 is a perspective view illustrating the

exercise device in its wrist-encircling position;

FIG. 2 illustrating the

inside surface thereof, i.e. the surface against the user’s

wrist, and

FIG. 3 the outside surface; and

FIG. 4 is an end elevational view showing details of

the device in its wrist~encircling condition.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of another embodiment

of the wrist exercise device hereof.

The wrist exercise device is generally a wrist band that is comfortable to wear. It consists of 2 parts, fabric body and metal rods as weights. The weight of the device is adjustable by adding or removing metal rods on the band. It also can be wear around the ankles and it is easy to make exercise more strenuous.

This invention could be used by anyone that wish to add some intensity to their exercise; also, it could be used to help patients accomplish recovery training.

While wearing this product on the end of limbs, depends on how much weight the user loads, it could help the user build muscle by lifting extra weight. For patients, it could be used while passive training by helping them stretch muscle groups or joints; also, it can be used as extra weight for patient to do active exercise.

Comparing to traditional free weights, this device is designed wearing on limbs, so it does not require users to constantly using hands to hold it. Also, it is comfortable to wear, portable, and adjustable.

The reason that I chose this patent is that this wrist exercise device is simple; however, it is has many advantages comparing to traditional free weights which are extremely easy to use, more portable, adjustable, and it could be used almost every class of people.

Just Keep Swimming (and checking your heart rate)

While exercise monitoring devices are made to deal with moisture and sweat, have you ever wondered how professional swimmers monitor their exercise while submerged? During the presentation on elevation masks in class I became intrigued about how complex it would be to monitor exercise in the water. This thought led me to the discovery of a swimming heart rate monitor in the form of a chest strap. Waterproof watches and dive computers that can also track heart rates exist on the market, however chest straps are known to provide a more accurate reading due to the proximity to the heart. But how could this design stay on, stay dry, and maintain accuracy? Let’s look into it.

Patent Title: Swimming Heart Rate Monitor
Patent Number: US20140336493 A1
Patent Filing Date: May 8, 2014
Patent Issue Date: Nov 13, 2014
Length for patent to issue: ~6 months
Inventors: Christopher J. Kulach, Timothy Vandermeiden, James K. Rooney, Rogelio A. Rivas, Phillip J.C. Spanswick
Assignee: Garmin Switzerland Gmbh
U.S. Classification: 600/390 (Belt or strap)
How Many Claims: 20

Figure 1. Front perspective view of swimming heart monitor containing electronics module at point 22 and length adjusting mechanisms at point 40.

The device shown in Figure 1 is comprised of two electrodes, two electrical connectors, an electronics module, and a water sealing feature. The adjustable strap, to be worn on the upper torso, is specifically designed to maintain function in chlorinated water, salt water, throughout intense body movement at high pressures. The electronic module processes electrical activity generated by the heart beat which is picked up by the electrodes. The electrical connectors on the external surface of the strap link the module to the electrodes. The connectors are enclosed by a water sealing feature, and attached to the removable electronic module which is in its own watertight housing. This module can be removed from the water-proof strap and used with other straps, in or out of water. This provides users with flexibility at a low cost. The user can monitor the heart rate in real time or upon completion of the exercise.

Figure 2. View of the module coupler and housing which are located on the external surface of the strap.

The strap itself, in length, is one third fabric elastic material and two thirds inelastic material, such as polyester, and is adjustable in length. The inelastic section is coated with a material, such as silicone, to increase the coefficient of static friction and prevent water flow between the skin and strap. The device creates a barrier from water, which would attenuate the amplitude of the heart signal, using two O-rings axially positioned on a post of the electrical connector. The electronics module is held in place by the coupler in Figure 2, also sealed by a water-proof housing.  Electrically conductive materials, such as conductive thermoplastic polyurethane (CTPU) or conductive silicone is used for the electrodes in order to maintain flexibility so contact with the skin remains constant. The module is to be placed around the sternum, with each electrode on either side. More electrodes could also be added to measure galvanic skin response, which tells the user information about hydration levels. The electronic connectors consist of a cylindrical post that attaches to an interlocking mechanism on the electronics module. The connectors also contain a first and second contact, which include an electrically conductive pin made from steel or copper that connects to the electronic component of the module. To combat skin impedance, filtering techniques such as the Lease-Means Square Algorithm are used to calculate the heart rate. The electronic module contains a battery, signal amplifiers, processing elements, memory elements, transmitters, and antennas that allow the data to be communicated in several ways. Certain models may also contain inertial sensors such as accelerometers or gyroscopes, so the device can be personalized to the user’s needs.

This patent referred to wrist monitors, headbands, and belts with similar capabilities, some for aquatic use and some for land. It is ideal out of this group of ideas because of its proximity to the heart which typically results in more accurate signals. Compared to other chest straps, it is ideal for aquatic environments because of the proportions of elasticity of the strap. This provides a snugness that is designed not to fold on itself or slip away from the heart when wet, and the materials for the electrodes are designed similarly. I found it particularly impressive that the device is multifunctional and adaptable beyond heart rate monitoring.

Physical therapy clinics would be a great target audience because of this, as they could buy a few different models and adapt per patient as necessary, saving them both money and space. This technology is also useful for competitive swimmers and triathletes. For those training, it allows them to reach their specific training goals, whether they want to hit the recovery, aerobic, or lactate threshold training zone. For those in rehab, where a physical therapist might want to ensure they are not surpassing a certain heart rate, this device would be ideal and potentially more accurate than a heart rate monitor worn on the risk. My question about underwater exercise monitoring was answered by this patent as well as the other related products that are being developed, and it’s interesting to think about what this kind of technology might lead to in the future of rehab and water-sports.

Get Shredded Easily, As Seen on TV

Patent title: Wheeled Exercise Device

Patent number: US 20120157274 A1

Patent filing date: December 16, 2011

Patent issue date: April 21, 2015

How long it took for this patent to issue: 3 years, 4 months

Inventors: Ian MacColl, Tylor Garland, Jayson Pegler, George Clark, Alden Mills

Assignee: Implus Footcare, LLC (Durham, NC)

US Classification: 482/132

How Many Claims: 10

We’ve all seen them, at least briefly before flipping channels – the exercise equipment infomercials with chiseled models using the latest and greatest workout invention to “tone”, “flatten”, “sculpt”, and “shred” their bodies into perfection. Some are commercial successes that facilitate good workouts, like the Iron Gym … and some are the Shake Weight.  Ab rollers, such as the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro (hereafter referred to as the ACP), tend to fall in the former category.

An ab wheel is an exercise device that, in its most basic form, consists of a wheel with handles on either side. One uses it to strengthen their core (rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, and to a lesser extent, the muscles of the lower back) by kneeling with hands grasping the handles and rolling the wheel forward, maintaining a straight spine as the shoulders move into flexion, and then rolling the wheel back towards the body, bringing the shoulders back in extension. It is a demanding and effective movement for building abdominal strength because of its nature as an anti-extension stability exercise, which strengthens the spine’s ability to resist hyperextension. The basic ab wheel is both effective and ubiquitous, and several variations had already been brought to market; yet, the inventors of the Ab Carver Pro sought to design a unique and superior product.

Figure 1. A general view of the Ab Carver Pro

As it is an improvement upon existing products, the ACP’s claims cannot be separated from comparisons to its predecessors in the art. The most prominent is the Ab Slide, which, encased by plastic housing, has a series of wheels and internal coils that provide a resistive force moving forward and a restoring, or assistive, force moving backward. The problem suggested, though, is that with this and other similar products, either the user is required to hold the handles firmly against the restored turning force, or the restoring force is transmitted through gears that reduce its effectiveness. The ACP claims a mechanism that provides this resistive and restorative force in an optimized way with the internal spring (carbon steel!) attached between an inner surface of the wheel and and the central axle within the interior cavity (Figure 2). There exist interior ribs to prevent coil misalignment.

Figure 2. The internal coil mechanism that provides resistive and restorative forces during exercise

The ACP also claims its “tire overmold” and wide surface, giving it more stability and safety than previous products. The edges of the “tire” are also angled to allow for stable “carving”, or rolling out to either side to engage different muscles to greater intensity (the obliques, as well as the glutes and deltoids, of the side being rolled towards). Rather than the perpendicular, uncontoured handles of its predessecors, the ACP claims its ergonomically designed handles, sloped downward “like a pilot’s steering mechanism” and ending in a slip-preventing ridge. Inventor Alden Mills explains in a video on the product’s website that they did a university study to prove the handle design’s engagement of the triceps muscles, and it showed engagement on the level of a triceps extension, making this not only a core workout but an arm one too. The handle is also designed to reduce stress on the wrists and shoulders.  The patent filed encompasses other versions of the product with bells whistles which are not part of the commercially available product, including one or multiple clutches to engage and disengage different levels of resistance, an electronics module with microchip/microprocessor and LCD display to convey workout data such as distance and repetitions, and a knee pad accessory.

I thought to research this patent because one day I came home from college and the Ab Carver Pro lay on my living room floor (my dad received it free through some rewards-program catalogue).  I did not know about the resistive/restorative coil before I used it for the first time, and I found the feature quite effective. Effective enough, in fact, as to render the device a less effective option for those with moderately to well-developed abdominal strength than a basic ab wheel. Thinking in retrospect, I also did not notice a marked increase in triceps activation and would like to see the claimed “university study” proving this myself. Furthermore, the handle design did not make my wrists and shoulders sing in relief – it simply looked nice and apparently offers a marketing angle. However, it would be worthwhile to gather other people’s opinions on the product, and in its elementary function as an ab wheel, it is a successful product, one that can effectively be used to “tone” and “sculpt” the abdominal muscles as advertised.

Office Gym Exercise Kit to Facilitate Exercise

Patent Title: Office Gym Exercise Kit

Patent number: US 7,137,935 B2

Patent filing date: April 20, 2004

Patent issue date: November 21, 2006

How long it took for this patent to issue: ~1.5 years

Inventor(s): Raymond Clarke, Lorri Wilson-Clarke

Assignee (if applicable):Raymond Clarke, Lorri Wilson-Clarke

U.S. classification: 482/123

How many claims: 9

The Office Gym Exercise kit is a an exercise kit that can be attached to multiple different chairs in order to provide exercises to the user. The kit comes with a flexible body that can be wrapped around the post of a chair in order to “ground” the system. In addition, it comes with an elastic band, two elastic straps, an ankle attachment, various attachable handles, and a means of latching the system to the chair. The kit is shown set up and in use in Figure 1 below. In addition to the contents of the kit, the major claims of this patent highlight the materials that each of these components contain and how to use them. For example, claim 7 explains that the strips provided are nylon and claim 6 explains that the plurality of retainers are D-rings.

I think this technology would be very applicable to all of the working citizens with desk jobs. A major issue that companies face with their employees is the health risk of sitting in a chair all day. After working at a desk job for an internship this summer, the company sent around an Ergonomics expert to analyze our posture and computer placement to make sure that our set up wasn’t causing any pain to us as we worked. In addition, they recommended that we get up and walk around ever hour or so to get moving and take a break from starting at a computer screen. This can help prevent blood clots and keep your energy up throughout the day. Therefore, this technology provides an alternative by having a kit that is attachable to your chair to provide exercise throughout the day. Employees would be able to take breaks, use different body parts for different movements, and be somewhat active throughout the day.

The exercise kit functions by attaching a flexible body to the post of a chair with elastic straps in order to provide tension to the system. Due to the flexibility of the body material, this apparatus can be applied to a multitude of chairs In addition, a back attachment is provided in order to circle around the chair and lock the provided elastic straps to the base of the chair. The elastic straps are connected to a retainer through a latching system to provide a tight grip on the chair. The retainer provides various points of attachment  depending on how long they need the elastic strap to be. Therefore, the user is then able to exercise their arms, legs, and back by pulling on the straps and providing resistance to their muscles. Each of the elastic straps has a D-ring attached for easy grip and handling.

There have been similar patents in the past with this idea, however they all differ from this specific patent slightly. For example, Patent No. 5,690,594 issued in 1997 describes a similar apparatus that can be attached to a chair. However, this patent includes a foot support bar to allow users to extend their foot along the bar. In addition, wheels are mounted to the food support and the user is able to push the foot support bar away from the user and back in order to exercise. In addition, Patent No. 5,599,260 issued in 1997 covers an exercise kit that attaches a roller to the post of a chair via an elastic material. This way, the device can exercise the user by with either their foot or their arm depending on where they attach the element. Furthermore, Patent No. 6,099,445 issued in 2000 describes an exercise device that includes a rigid framed with elements that can be attached to it. The frame can be attached to the central back of a chair and allow the user to exercise their arms, legs, and neck. Therefore, although there are similar patents on the market, there are slight differences between each of them that distinguish their patents from each other.

This patent caught my eye as it is a simple idea that has yet to be implemented into any office that I have heard of. As I mentioned previously, I have experience working a desk job in which they warn you about the lack of movement throughout the day if you do not get up and walk around every now and again. This is a risk to both employees and a company who provides health insure to their employees. Therefore, I figured this kit is an interesting initiative to increase fitness motivation throughout an office environment. In addition, the components that make up this kit are not technology heavy. They are made of normal exercise equipment materials that can most likely be provided at a fairly reasonable price for companies.

Figure 1.) This image shows the kit set up to a desk chair, as described, and in use.

The New Look of Batting Practice

Patent title: Composite Softball Bat with Inner Sleeve

Patent number: US 20040209716 A1

 Patent filing date: June 18,2001

Patent issue date:  October 21, 2004

How long it took for this patent to issue: 3 years

Inventor(s): Matthew Vacek, George Griffith

Assignee (if applicable): Miken Composites, LLC.

U.S. classification: 473/567

How many claims: 40

If you have ever participated in little league baseball or softball you can probably vividly remember the pain of batting practice on a cold morning and the sting of your hands with every hit. With the traditional aluminum or wooden bats you most likely used, the sting from the vibration was something players came to expect. Today’s players, however, may never know the real extent of this pain with the introduction of composite bats.  In short, this invention makes softball bats more energy efficient, enhancing their performance as well as comfort for the player using it.

Previously, metal bats were the most common bat. Compared to the wooden bats used before, metal bats were much more durable. Unlike wood, metal bats did not snap in half, but almost every hit left a dent of some size on the bat. Mechanically speaking, the bat is an accessory the player uses to transfer energy from their arms to the ball during their swing.  The energy that is used to dent the bat, therefore, is energy lost from the actual hit and counterproductive for the player.  Even if the dent is not visible, metal bats experienced microscopic cracks that ultimately failed due to shock loading.  Surprisingly to me, metal bats failed after as few as twenty-five hits. That means that a brand new bat could fail in during warm-up and already be past it’s prime by game time.  Patent US 20020198071 A1 proposed a composite bat where the inner reinforcement sleeve was aluminum, and was the biggest driver for this upgraded patent.

Figure A. An inside look at the multi-layer construction of the ultimately hollow bat barrel.

Of the 40 claims included, most are focused on the manufacturing of the bat-the molding of the inner sleeve and fusing of the handle- however, the composite material used is what makes it novel. US Classification 473/567 represents designs “of plastic compilation” which is the greatest improvement on already existing bats.  The design of the bat, as shown in Figure A, is tubular “sleeves” concentrically aligned and the ultimately hollow barrel.  Unlike the previously proposed “composite bats” this was the first completely composite design.  The bat is “comprised of a continuous resin matrix reinforced with a plurality of circumferentially-extending fiber socks”.  The fiber socks are comprised of, by weight, 74% fiberglass and 26% carbon fiber and enforced with nylon tapes.  This design provides the ultimate level of strength with the added benefit of a flexible body. This elasticity of the barrel provides a “trampoline effect” where the bat acts as a springboard for the ball.  The local deformation when the bat is in contact with the ball ultimately results in the maximum velocity of the ball by conserving energy rather than stealing it with a dent.  The composite material allows the barrel to momentarily elastically deform into an oval and return to a perfect circle rather than denting and being permanently harmed.

This design will excite softball player across the globe. Unlike in baseball, softball players from age 5 to professional, are allowed to use metal or composite bats. Additionally, this design will benefit all players, not just the elite. In softball terminology, the composite material and construction of the barrel elongates the sweet spot that we all aim to find as a batter.  As a smaller-framed softball player, I found this technology exceptionally interesting since anyway to enhance the power of my swing is greatly appreciated.