Only enthusiastic fans of Psych which blew up in 2014, will probably remember a relatively small detail from the 2009 episode "Shawn Gets the Yips". In one scene, Shawn Spencer – the protagonist of the series – is shown hectically on an elliptical trainer exercise. A note on the machine reads, "If your heart rate drops below 150, you die." The note is not only a shameless allusion to Speed but also turns out to be a pretty cruel gag – a trick that Shawn has to train with.
Many years later, long after most humans had passed from Psych, Ryan Sterbenz remembered this scene. Sterbenz, 30, an Arizona-based aerospace engineer, had gained a few pounds and felt inspired to make a difference. (His turning point: "When I bought jogging pants," he jokes.) Sterbenz wondered if it could be possible to connect his TV ̵
Although he liked to watch Netflix during training, he found it difficult to maintain his momentum when he got into a particular show – he was too intrigued by the plot and then drove too slowly. For part of the design, he knew he wanted to fold a mechanism that beeped twice if his pace dropped too high and Netflix shut down completely if he ignored and accelerated the warnings on the bike.
The design that has been designed by Sterbenz works a bit like a Bluetooth keyboard. "It uses a small Bluetooth chip that's usually designed for keyboards, and my computer thinks it's just an ordinary keyboard," he says. To program it, Sterbenz used an open source platform called Arduino, which allowed it to program the bike with a USB cable and no special tools.
After he had programmed the device, the rest was simple: Sterbenz placed a magnet on the bicycle pedal and a magnetic sensor next to it. "Every time the magnet aligns with the sensor, it is recorded as a rotation," says Sterbenz. "If the bike does not notice the rotations fast enough – and I ignored its warnings – it tells the computer that certain keys have been pressed." (In this case, Sterbenz programmed the key transfer to "Alt-F4", an abbreviation for closing Netflix.)