UNeTech-incubated startup Impower Health receives patent for new self-paced treadmill

The exercise equipment startup Impower Health Inc. has announced the granting of a new U.S. patent (No. 11,185,740) for a treadmill that adapts to the users own running pace automatically. The invention was initially developed as a potential therapeutic device to help stroke patients by three students at the University of Nebraska Omaha, William Denton, Molly Schieber,…

Image courtesy Impower Health, Inc.
Image courtesy Impower Health, Inc.

The exercise equipment startup Impower Health Inc. has announced the granting of a new U.S. patent (No. 11,185,740) for a treadmill that adapts to the users own running pace automatically.

The invention was initially developed as a potential therapeutic device to help stroke patients by three students at the University of Nebraska Omaha, William DentonMolly Schieber, MD, PHD, and Casey Wiens. The technology was then further developed into a commercial product by Impower Health in tandem with UNeTech – the technology transfer arm of the University of Nebraska.

It’s called a self-paced, or hands-free treadmill, and the technology promises to provide a safer, more intuitive experience for stationary runners. Rather than setting the speed and intensity changes for a workout before beginning, you simply turn it on, and begin to run.

Lidar sensors at the front of the treadmill monitor your run. Data from these sensors is fed through a custom algorithm that determines an appropriate speed, and sets the movement of the treadmill belt to match.

The closer you are to the front of the treadmill, the faster it goes. As you move to the back of the treadmill, it slows down automatically. If you step off the machine, the belt stops moving automatically to prevent injury.

“It’s different than walking on a standard treadmill, but once you adjust to using it, the response time is very fast.” says Stephanie Kidd, communications Strategist for UNeTech.

“The motor response is highly regulated to ensure user safety is paramount. One of the many benefits of working with the experts in Biomechanics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha is their depth of knowledge in kinesiology and in both electrical and mechanical engineering. They know exactly how the body works and performs, and they have helped us design a system that can maximize that interactivity with the machine,” adds Doug Miller, CEO of Impower.

The added safety of Impower’s design is sure to turn heads in an industry that’s been scandalized by preventable injuries. In 2012, nearly half a million people visited a hospital for injuries related to exercise equipment. Last year, Peloton recalled 125,000 treadmills in the wake of the death of a small child who was pulled under one of the company’s Tread+ treadmill.

OK Go could not be reached for comment.

“Several other manufacturers and research institutes have tried to create this same technology,” says Impower CEO Doug Miller, with varying degrees of success. “But none have succeeded with a cost-effective technology [for] both consumer & commercial markets.”

Impower Health hopes to change this, and is currently looking to partner with a treadmill manufacturer to bring its new tech to market.

It’s one of those ideas that seems so obvious that it’s hard to believe it didn’t exist already. Yet currently, if you want a similar experience to that offered by an Impower treadmill, your options are limited. There are certain high end manual treadmills like the $6,000 Woodway Curve, which are “effectively more like a hamster wheel,” says Miller. If you’re say, a Stanford kinesiology researcher, you could also opt to run custom software on your the rehabilitation grade instrumented treadmill in your lab. But those can cost up to $80,000.

When they come to market however, Miller expects the premium for an Impower enabled treadmill to be “no more than a couple hundred dollars.”

JOIN THE MOVEMENT!

Sign up to receive daily updates in your inbox.