Build Muscle While Checking E-mail

Working out your forearm or biceps may be as easy as checking your e-mail or playing a game of Pong with a hack that lets a handgrip exerciser function as a computer mouse. University of Melbourne Ph.D. student Florian Mueller created the device, which is on display at the Computer Human Interface conference in Boston. He said the project cost about US$10.

"It's a little bit like the Wii, but it's very exerting," said Mueller, referring to the Nintendo game console.

A handgrip exerciser is a handheld piece of exercise equipment that can be squeezed to work muscles in the upper and lower arm. Some are digital, like the one Mueller used, and can display the amount of force achieved with each squeeze.

Mueller built the Mousegrip using sensors from an old mouse and incorporating them into the handgrip. Once it's plugged in, the computer recognizes it as if it were a mouse. A single handgrip moves the cursor along only one axis, while two handgrips will give the user a full range of motion on the screen. One handgrip moves the cursor up and down and another moves it left and right. In order to reach the bottom right corner of a computer screen both handgrips would need to be fully depressed, a difficult task for those who don't regularly exercise their arms.

Mueller demonstrated the Mousegrip with a version of the computer game Pong. When the handgrip was not being used, the paddle would remain at the top of the screen, but when the handgrip was fully depressed -- using about 50 kilograms of pressure -- the paddle would move to the bottom of the screen. Mueller encouraged passers by to only use one hand, but some needed two.

"We don't only believe that exertion makes you stronger, but also creates stronger social bonds with other players," Mueller said, mentioning that the game could be played over the Internet with players on different continents.

Mueller doesn't plan to commercialize the Mousegrip, but does plan to release a boxing game in the coming months. Players will be able to hit an interactive surface while using the Internet to compete against others.

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