November 24, 2008

Cell phone may help keep pounds off

A cell phone may soon be able to help people to maintain an exercise routine and keep the pounds off, U.S. researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and Intel have created two new cell phone applications -- UbiFit and UbiGreen -- to automatically track workouts and green transportation.

The programs display motivational pictures on the phone's background screen that change the more the user works out or uses eco-friendly means of transportation, researchers said.

Sunny Consolvo, a recently graduated University of Washington Information School doctoral student and one of UbiFit's creators, said that in a 3-month field experiment, people using UbiFit with the background display kept up their workout routines over the winter holidays.

Current versions of UbiFit and UbiGreen use an external sensing device -- the Intel Mobile Sensing Platform -- clipped to the user's waist. The device includes an accelerometer -- a device that measures acceleration -- to sense the user's movement.

The programs could run on phones with built-in accelerometers, such as the iPhone and the new Android G1, with no need for external equipment, the researchers said.