[TSTIL] The WaterRower Camera

[ This is a part of "The Software That I Love", a series of posts about Software that I created or had a small part in ]

2021 - The WaterRower Camera

I was getting more and more heavy during this period, almost reaching 90kg / 200lbs. I never exercised but I had bought a rowing machine with a water tank because I wanted to exercise, in principle. The machine was bought in 2019 just before the pandemic and during the boring early pandemic months it was a welcome way to distract myself. For some weeks I started rowing like a maniac but of course it wasn't sustainable. The machine started collecting dust.

It had a small "workout computer" displaying the stats, but it was very dumb and not connected to anything. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to measure my stroke speed, depth, and power more closely. The (black) elastic band is wound up around a cylinder. By painting the cylinder white and tracking with a camera how much black/white pixels are visible, it shows how far you've extracted the cord. Doing that a lot of times per second you can see stroke depth, speed, power, and recovery speed. I attempted to do this with a cheap ESP32 board with a camera but found that I could only get 1 FPS due to the way the library worked. I have since learned more about interacting with the hardware, and think that I can get it much faster because I only need to count pixels that match a certain threshold in brightness. 

Anyway, that would take a lot of time. Instead I hooked up a raspberry pi zero 2 w and reached 60FPS with brute force. Then I built a simple web interface which I used to exercise about 5 extra times. It felt really good to exercise and have it monitored intensely at 60FPS.

Then my wife's cousin Johannes came by, saw me rowing and laughed his a** off. Apparently my rhythm was completely wrong and I should do short and very fast pulls, then a slow recovery. I had taught myself rowing in the wrong way and now couldn't get used to the right away anymore. I haven't rowed since, but I discovered that running is very nice. In the summer of 2022 I lost 13 kgs and got down to 77kg and feel a lot healthier.


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