Apple patent application filed for automatically matching iPod music tempo to exercise level

“The recent Apple and Nike announcement was a bolt from the blue- but it appears Apple has been working on similar ideas for a long time – perhaps even before teaming up with Nike. They suggest in this patent application embedding an accelerometer into an iPod to gauge a runners foot falls and then to sync the music to the tempo of running. The Pat App suggests either changing the tempo of the song or the iPod selecting songs which match the tempo (the host computer would analyse songs and add a tempo tag to each),” reports. “One aspect of the patent is to use your running speed to set the music tempo- if you’re running slowly it’ll play slower music- running faster- faster tempo music. Presumably all this might work with the Nike+iPod product soon to be released.”

More info and patent application sketches here.

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Analyst: Nike+Apple = iPod as a platform – May 23, 2006
Apple and Nike shares rise folowing Nike+iPod announcement – May 23, 2006
Nike and Apple team up to launch Nike+iPod, footwear that talks to your iPod – May 23, 2006


  1. I wonder how long it will take to “train” the iPod to translate your strides – which vary in length – into distance. What sort of parameters go into figuring if this is an uphill or downhill (shorter) stride or a longer stride on a level surface? This is minor for a lot of runners – those with a shortage of hills to work with – but some of us have a shortage of level spaces to work with!

    You can tell how in touch Dvorak is with the community this is targeted at when you note that he thinks we run in “tennis shoes”. I sometimes do run in the same shoes I play tennis in … they’re called Cross Trainers and do a pretty good – but not great – job for both uses. Serious running in shoes designed for tennis – or basketball – is almost certain to lead to injury.

  2. I’m still unclear how the audible feedback element of this works… Does this mean the iPod firmware will be updated to incorporate some kind of vxml text-to-speech technology; or will it simply be a limited set of pre-recorded clips that get played over the music? If it’s the former it means that scrolling through menus, etc. might also be possible with audible feedback. Here’s hoping!

  3. DLMeyer

    Your question is *exactly* the problem with everything that tries to measure distance based on stride frequency. In fact, we know that you should be hitting the ground right around 180 times per minute no matter how long your stride length is (for distances > 800m), so right there the whole idea goes out the window. Generally though, most runners with any sort of pace sense know how far they have gone in a given time, so this would only matter when doing interval type work off a track, in which case you could gear based on your extertion.

    However, wouldn’t you want the opposite of what this patent suggests? Set a target pace and if you are over have the iPod play slower songs to slow you down, if your under pace, play faster songs to bring you back up?

    I agree with most that Dorvak is an idiot, however, I’ll suggest that more of these will be sold to triathletes than runners – from my observation, they seem to be the bigger gadget freaks!

  4. sd,
    Agreed … if the ‘pace tune’ is automatic, then it should switch to a more aggressive time if your stride slows. Or after a specified “distance” – 6 miles into a 10K run, for example.

    There is a possibility that they could (now? later?) modulate the pace of the song by shortening or extending the sounds. This used to be near impossible … all praise to the mighty computer … but today you can get significant time compression with nary a waver in tone – and a runner really only needs a small change. Given that the iPod’s CPU is likely seriously under-used, this should be no problem (except to battery life).

    Triathletes? Hmmm …a 10K run, a 25K ride, a 1K swim … ? ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”big surprise” style=”border:0;” />

  5. why file this patent AFTER the iPod + Nike announcement? Seems as though you would want to file it BEFORE the announcement to keep from giving patent trolls (read: Creative) the opportunity to swoop in and submit the idea as their own retroactively?

  6. Well this is exactly what I’ve been looking for for a long time.

    I’ll be getting the shoes when they become available. I need a new pair soon anyway. Got a nano for free yesterday which cuts the cost of adoption. The adaptor at $30 is very reasonable.

    From my limited understanding this device contains an accelerometer, not an impact sensor. It may therefore be able to calculate distance directly.

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