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Interactive Workout, Aquarium Funded by iCampus

By Tiffany Kosolcharoen

CycleScore, a creation that transforms exercise on a stationary bicycle into a competitive race with other gym participants, is among the winning project proposals receiving $30,000 from the Microsoft/MIT iCampus alliance.

Other chosen proposals were iQuarium, iLabNoteBook, and the Distributed Collaboration System.

The grants were announced in December for teams with “ambitious and innovative proposals ... that involve student organizations willing to keep the work alive after the original participants have graduated,” according to the iCampus Student Proposal Guidelines. Teams will begin their projects this February and continue for at least a year.

Project makes exercise fun

“Aerobic exercise is not a fun and motivating experience,” said Harris A. Rabin G, one of the CycleScore founders, along with Sloan students Joseph Heitzeberg G and Doron Harlev G. “CycleScore aims to get more people to the gym [for] a more fun and motivating experience.”

While CycleScore has the potential to become a virtual gaming simulation, the product is still early in development. “It may be a visual scoreboard where you see yourself competing against others,” said Rabin. “We still have to decide on the product.”

(See “‘Virtual Reality’ System on Its Way to Z-Center,” page 9.)

Electronic fish to adorn Infinite

iQuarium is a display screen of interactive three-dimensional fish that is intended for the Infinite Corridor.

iQuarium “is not just a screen of fish swimming around,” said Audrey M. Roy ’05, a creator of iQuarium, along with Kathryn S. Wasserman ’04. “It is a 3-D, interactive display of fish in real-time fluid dynamics.”

Intended for the visitors and students passing through the Infinite Corridor, the iQuarium display of fish and virtual water would be modeled after the speed and number of visitors through sensors in the hall.

“Users would select the type of fish and conditions of the water, view the complex patterns the fish form when they swim, and learn about fluid dynamics,” said Wasserman, a student in the Department of Ocean Engineering.

“When fish swim, they use vortices, the velocity field of water around them, to propel themselves,” Wasserman said. She stressed the importance of biomimetics -- engineered systems that imitate living animals -- in the field of ocean engineering.

Biomimetics “is red hot right now because most ships have propellors and many limitations, so scientists are trying to find new sources to propel ships,” Wasserman said.

While the team’s initial task is to create software that models fish and water patterns, iQuarium may eventually model a water tunnel. Roy said, “It would be great for students and professors to test ships and models without needing to come in contact with actual water.”

Saying her team would make education rather than research a priority, Wasserman added, “We want iQuarium to be visually enticing with many interactive components, including colorful fish and [customizable] boats, to introduce people to ocean engineering.”

Tablets replace lab notebooks

iLabNoteBooks are tablet PCs customized for scientific research and designed to replace traditional paper lab notebooks.

“When you do research, you have a lab notebook that is fairly large, big, and hard to carry,” said Patrick A. Anquetil G, who proposed the iLabNoteBook.

“Graphs and tables are often pasted into it, and writing can be illegible,” he added. “With the tablet PC, writing is digital from the start, not analog. You can retrieve it quickly, search, rearrange, and reorganize what you wrote.”

Through a partnership with Microsoft, tablet PCs will be given to researchers. “We will design a survey and create a user acceptance experiment,” Anquetil said. “On a weekly basis, we will interview them, see how they use the tablet PC, and improve the features.”

Anquetil envisions future students using the iLabNoteBook on a daily basis to do research. “Heavy laboratory and research books may [no longer] be needed to be carried around,” he said.

Project improves communication

The Distributed Collaboration System is a video-conferencing communication system to supplement the Mars Gravity Biosatellite team’s mission of studying the effects of reduced gravity on mice.

“The Mars [Gravity Biosatellite Project] has a long-term goal of sending people to Mars,” said James K. Whiting G, who proposed the Distributed Collaboration System with Audrey M. Schaffer ’05 and Ryan A. Damico ‘05. “We are planning to launch a satellite into space to put mice in a low gravity environment [for two months],” he said.

With MIT partnering with the University of Washington and the University of Queensland in the project, the teams needed real-time communication methods to be productive in different time zones. The Distributed Collaboration System involves using the latest teleconferencing and video-conferencing equipment in a beta test for Microsoft.

“We will integrate off-the-shelf equipment and certain pieces of software to allow direct customization and further real time communication,” Damico said. “We will work on project management, add a new database server to the hardware and software, and customize the equipment.”

“Perhaps we may even find a use for the Distributed Collaboration System with the satellite,” Damico said.