March 12, 2009 Let’s be honest, for most people exercising is a bit of a pain and the following day you can wind up sore in muscles you didn’t even know you were using. Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a system that could help lessen such painful surprises by displaying muscular activity in real time.

The system consists of a computerized, sensor-based “magic mirror” that analyzes muscular activity and shows real-time computer-generated images of hard muscles are working while exercising. It is currently capable of monitoring the activity of 30% of the body’s roughly 300 skeletal muscles through 16 electromyographs (instruments that record the electrical waves associated with muscle activity) attached to the user’s body, 10 motion-capture cameras, and a pair of floor sensors that measures the force exerted on the legs.

Using this data a real-time computer-generated image of the user’s musculo-skeletal system is displayed on a screen with each muscle shown in a different color representing how much it is being used at that moment. Active muscles are shown in red, while inactive muscles are shown in yellow. The magic mirror system is able to display the images in real-time even when the user is moving rapidly thanks to newly developed software that the researchers say is 10 times faster than previous technology.

The magic mirror was developed by researchers at the Information and Robot Technology Research Initiative (IRT) under the leadership of professor Yoshihiko Nakamura and was unveiled to the media at the University of Tokyo with the system’s display monitor showing a real-time computer-generated image of a male model’s musculo-skeletal system. The team is working on a more compact version that incorporates the cameras directly into the display with hopes the system will find its way into homes and gyms to help people get in shape as well as hospitals where it could be used to help doctors treat conditions that affect the muscles. There's also bound to be interest from those who train and monitor elite athletes.

Now, if I only had some muscles worth displaying.

Darren Quick

Source: Pink Tentacle.