Developers have built applications for mobile phones to support a wide swath of activities, but I would argue that there is no better use for a mobile phone than for those tasks that are fundamentally mobile. And what is more mobile than running? While there have been a variety of research projects (such as UbiFit) designed to encourage exercise, I am more interested here in those applications that support folks who’ve already bought in. For us, smart phones that make it easy to track pace, distance, and even elevation (such as RunKeeper, SportsTracker, and MotionXGPS) have been killer apps. Research projects (such as TripleBeat) are also exploring how to increase competition using past personal results as well as results from other users. Other work has explored using shared audio spaces to allow runners to compete over distances.
How else might we use mobile technologies to improve the running experience? One idea is to utilize VR and AR technologies to visualize in one digital space distributed competitors (similar to this work). Also, for trail runners, it might be nice to download a run (e.g., from EveryTrail) and be notified of upcoming turns. One could image integrating concepts from SeeReader, presenting photographs of the most relevant upcoming landmarks on the display while reading out directions. Such an interface might also request that a user take photos in areas where data is sparse, and it could provide simple interfaces to view and mark obstacles or scenic spots. Other applications might monitor some aspect of a runner’s posture (similar to research on snowboard training).
Of course, sometimes it is nice to just leave all of the technology behind and head into the woods.