By Aubrey Kagan
My local gym shut down for a few weeks for repairs and I went to a new location where they had many cardio machines all manufactured by Lifestyle, each with a similar HMI. It consisted of a touch screen which seems to be resistive since it required some pressure to activate. They seemed somewhat temperamental for brand new machines, and the touch surface seemed far too small for my 0.7″ diameter fingers (not particularly large for an adult male), but I could live with that.
One machine, the 95X cross trainer, is powered by “pedal power.” It doesn’t display for a short start-up period and then there is an unknown hang time after pedaling stops while the display remains powered. Then it blanks, losing all data. I climbed on the machine and started pedaling to initiate the display. Next I had to enter the data: program type, age, weight etc. The entry is screen-based. It can be activated either by spin buttons or a keypad. The buttons are about 0.5″ square with about the same distance between them. Trying to hit those buttons while your body moves up and down as you keep the display powered is extremely difficult and of course this is compounded by the above-mentioned fact that getting the unit to respond to the keys is difficult.
I selected a program for a pre-programmed heart rate. As I went along (this is a completely new machine to me) I wanted to change something. I started the sequence on the screen. After about 10 seconds, up popped a message that both hands must be on the heart rate sensors in order to function. Not only that, but the message also overlaid what I was entering so it is impossible to complete the change.
A little later after giving up trying to enter a “5″ from the keyboard, I tried to use the spinner keys to increment to the setting I wanted. Well, you cannot hold your finger on the button and have it auto-increment. You have to press the button 20 times to go from 140 to 120. During the process, the software decides that you are not making a modification but that you really want to stop and it applies the brakes so that if you don’t want to lose everything you have to keep working against the increased friction. Well that REALLY gets your pulse rate going.
I was only on that machine for 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe how frustrating the HMI was, given that I had used it on the treadmill where I thought I had figured out all the idiosyncrasies.