Think you're fast enough to beat Usain Bolt on the track? It's one thing to haul out a stopwatch, but it's another to race his time against a real-life ghost. That ghost in this case is Puma's "BeatBot", a shoebox-sized robot that helps runners continually improve by allowing them to race against a competitor as much as they please.
At this point, the world is chock-full of wearables, whether they be smartwatches, eye glasses, or even clothing. That makes BeatBot a little refreshing; it doesn't require a wearable at all. Instead, all the user needs to manipulate the BeatBot is a smartphone, which they will use to input the time they'd like to beat. Users can either use BeatBot to best their own times, or a competitor's - including Usain Bolt.
A quick glance might make you believe that BeatBot is just a motorized shoebox that goes straight quite well, but there's a lot more to it than meets the eye. The trailer below talks of the BeatBot's 9 infrared sensors, allowing it to track the revolution of the wheel, and in effect the speed and distance. Under the hood? None other than an Arduino microcontroller. When a company like Puma adopts Arduino, it's a pretty big endorsement.
To make the BeatBot pull off its actions accurately, it's equipped with a digital steering servo and has a 9 axis accelerator. All told, the BeatBot can make 100 adjustments per second to help it accurately hit the time you are trying to beat. Since Usain Bolt is the ultimate target, the BeatBot can go in excess of 41KM/h. If you're suddenly wishing that you could run 41KM/h, the BeatBot might be made for you.
Unfortunately, there is one rather sizable caveat to be aware of: at the moment, BeatBot is used exclusively by Puma-sponsored teams and athletes, and there's no clear commitment about releasing it to the public. If it doesn't hit the market at large, you can be sure that hardware hackers will manage to replicate the bot's functionality and let you build it yourself.