Externalizing fitness motivation by hacking the real world


One of my first inspirations for hacking the physical world came from

seeing the video “Piano Stairs” where an ordinary set of stairs is transformed into an interactive piano synth with the wonderful result of people electing to walk up the stairs instead of using the escalator, thus improving the public’s health. The video is below and if you haven’t seen it, please take a minute now before reading further. I think you’ll enjoy it.

I find it very inspiring when technology can be used to help people live healthier lives. As we’ve written about before, there are many (maybe too many) personal fitness tracking devices, but almost nothing commercially available (that I’m aware of) which applies technology in the real world to make people healthier. This theme seems ripe for home hackers to explore, and might even be a great area for new startup opportunities.

It made me wonder, how would I go about wiring up my staircase at home for interactivity?

Makey Makey, an easy hacking kit that helps transforms ordinary objects into computer keyboard inputs with a little wiring and almost no programming required, actually features an interactive staircase in their demo video. The problem (for me, anyway) is that it requires a little conductivity to work, which means you’d have to hold onto a handrail while walking up the stairs (any maybe even walk barefoot…not sure) in order to complete the circuit and trigger a “step” event. I’d want something more fool-proof.

Today on Reddit, ece_nerd asked the community for help on the right design to create a music staircase, and talks (albeit briefly) about their experience testing a few different sensor types (PIR/Ultrasonic, laser trip, IR LED). If anyone has any ideas, please chime in because this is something I want in my house.

p.s. if you’re interested in this general theme of using technology to improve health, please check out EveryMove, a startup that’s helping to turn activity data into tangible rewards.


Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, please share it!
Please share your thoughts here.