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SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR WEIGHT-LOSS GOAL VISUALIZATION AND PLANNING AND BUSINESS METHOD FOR USE THEREFOR
TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to the arts of visual image processing to predict a subject's appearance after a given amount of weight loss. This invention relates to the business methods employing a predictive image visualization system to attract and retain clients of service provides in the weight loss food program, fitness center, physical therapy and sports medicine, and weight control medical industries.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED
FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH AND
This invention was not developed in conjunction with any Federally-sponsored contract.
MICROFICHE APPENDIX Not applicable.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 30
Many people desire to decrease their body weight, especially their body fat content Modem life styles include highly sedentary weekday routines such as computer-based desk jobs, low-exercise commuting routines such as transportation by private automobile, coupled with high-fat, 35 high-calorie food choices often eaten quickly or while "on the run". Besides genetic tendencies, these factors lead many people to be dissatisfied with their appearance.
The problem is so prevalent that billion dollar industries have evolved to help people overcome their body dissatisfaction, including packaged food programs such as Weight Watchers (TM) and Jenny Craig (TM), fitness and workout centers such as Bally's (TM), and physical therapy and sports medicine centers. This industry has also attracted medical and osteopathic doctors to specialize in use the use of diet, exercise, and sometimes prescriptive regimens to help their clients and patients achieve their weight and appearance goals.
According to marketLooks.com (TM), there are currently 5Q over 24,000 health clubs in the United States with 40 million members generating over 12 billion dollars in revenue each year. In 1995, health clubs and private individuals spent 3.2 billion dollars on fitness equipment alone, and these revenues are expected to reach 4.9 billion, a 38% increase by 5J the year 2001. In 1996, $500 million was spent on meal replacements and protein drinks, and these sales are expected to grow by 30% over the next five years.
However, many people fail to meet their goals, despite their efforts and the amounts they spend. The two most 60 common reasons people fail in their attempt to change their body weight and appearance are lack of understanding and motivation.
how exercise and diet affect the physiology of a person, especially taking into consideration of the person's frame size or "build" and metabolism. Some available technologies include the ability to scan a photograph or import an image from a digital camera of a client or patient, and to digitally alter the image manually to produce an estimate of the client's future appearance.
Currently available systems and methods simply "shrink" an image, such as by hand manipulation and editing of a digitized photograph, also known as digital "retouching". However, different body builds will store fat in different amounts in various portions of the body, and different exercises will reduce and/or firm up different body areas unevenly. Additionally, certain features of the body will show little or no response to weight change. For example, if the width of an image of a leg is decreased by a certain percentage, the appearance of the knee will be changed. However, knees generally do not have a significant fat layer, and thus represent a minimum circumference at almost any weight. So, the resulting image would predict an overall thin appearance to a leg which is not physiologically achievable. Similar factors apply to other points in the body, such as the width of shoulders and hips, and circumference of joints. As this method is highly inaccurate, it does not provide the level of education a client or patient needs to understand why particular diet and exercises have been recommended, and how to adjust and apply this information in the future.
In order to accurately predict a future appearance, many physiological factors must be taken into account with diet and exercise goals. Estimating the results of these changes is typically beyond the technical and medical education and skill sets of most staffers at weight loss packaged food program outlets and physical fitness centers, and may be highly labor intensive and expensive to generate by appropriately qualified health and medical professionals.
At present, there are a few resources available on the Internet. One service, called MorphOver (TM) from eFit of New York City, N.Y, provides a service in which users e-mail a digital photograph in JPEG format to their website without any body measurements, body fat data, or indicated goals, and the service returns a "slimmed" photograph file within a few weeks. The instructions indicate that the original or "before" photograph must be of the subject in dark clothing, in a certain position, and with a white background. Another on-line service, this one offered by Sound Feelings Publishing of Reseda, Calif., is similar in that it only requires submission of a photograph without any data as to the subject's body fat, dimensions, or goals. Additionally, the advertisement for this service states that a digital photograph artist will spend at least two hours manually manipulating the photograph.
Client and Patient Motivation
There are very few credible, non-surgical remedies for rapid weight loss. Therefore, successful weight-loss programs require months to even years of commitment and adherence to diet and exercise regimens prescribed. If a client or patient becomes unmotivated or loses confidence a program, he or she will not continue the program. Further, this client or patient may have negative effects to the attraction and retention of other clients and patients as they will report to their friends and acquaintances that the program is another "scam" or "doesn't work", or that a particular professional is not competent. This can lead to a decline in memberships of businesses which are membership-based.
Therefore, there is a need in the art for a visual fitness planner which accurately produces predicted images of a weight-loss client or patient. There also exists a need in the art for this visual fitness planner system and method to be operable by persons of usual skill and education who are commonly employed in the package food program and fitness center industries. Further, there is a need in the art for this visual fitness planner to easily and quickly produce intermediate images, such as weekly or monthly predictions, in order to provide accurate and positive confidence reinforcement to the client or patient, thereby enhancing the likelihood that the client or patient will continue to abide by the program and ultimately achieve his or her goals. There also exists a need in the art for this visual fitness planner to be realizable both in a networked or Internet-based form, or in a single workstation form. Additionally, there exists a need in the art for a method of leveraging a visual fitness planner to attract and retain clients and patients in this industry.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The Visual Fitness Planner is an Internet fitness profiler which helps users gain insight into their fitness plan and projected outcome and results. The Visual Fitness Planner combines image morphing technology, exercise programming, supplement sales, and motivational techniques into one product.
Users begin by entering their measurement goals and current picture into the system, preferably via a Web site. The Visual Fitness Planner analyzes the user's data, and produces a customized fitness plan by applying a "morphing" process to the "before view". The picture is sectionalized into body components which are highly responsive to weight loss and components which are less responsive to weight loss, and the amount of change in each body section is determined by physiological tables and formulae. The resulting modified "after view" image is then returned to the user, preferably by online communications such as e-mail.
The Image Analyzer
The combination of three-dimensional ("3-D") morphing technology with mathematical statistics is used to project fat loss and muscle gain and to produce projected fitness outcomes. The user's input data includes skin fold, circumference, height, weight, BMR, and activity level. By entering the client's measurements into a mathematical formula, the user's picture can be morphed into the desired outcome. The combination of skin fold and circumference measurement produces an accurate morphing outcome for each user.
Business Method for Use of the Visual Fitness
The Visual Fitness Planner helps the fitness industry overcome two of their biggest problems: obtaining new members and retaining current members. People may decide to join or renew their membership with a specific health club because they offer the Visual Fitness Planner as a service. By showing members how they will look 10 pounds thinner and giving them a clear-cut, understandable plan on how to achieve it, businesses in this industry will generate a satisfied and loyal clientele.
The Visual Fitness Planner is useful for nationwide health clubs, diet centers, and exercise equipment manufacturers.
Direct marketing to Internet users may also be employed, as the technology and methods lend themselves well to interfacing to the user via common web site and browser technologies. As such, Internet users who are looking to start a 5 fitness program will have access to the Visual Fitness Planner via the web site.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The figures presented herein when taken in conjunction with the disclosure form a complete description of the invention.
FIG. 1 shows the arrangement of an Internet browser computer, digital photography and scanning equipment, the 15 Internet, and the Visual Fitness Planner server.
FIG. 2 illustrates in detail the functional organization of the Visual Fitness Planner server.
FIG. 3 depicts a cross-sectional view of a body portion to illustrate the calculation of base circumference of a body 20 part.
FIG. 4 sets forth an example of locating grids placed on a subject's photograph to aid the image processor in locating each body part.
FIG. 5 shows the result of the placing of a grid over a single body part during the process of finding edges of the body part.
FIG. 6 illustrates the result of the morphing to reduce the width of the body part image. 30 FIG. 7 shows a simulated side-by-side "before" and "after" comparison output from the system.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE
35 The Visual Fitness Planner is preferably an Internet-based fitness system and service, which helps the user meet his or her fitness objectives. However, it may be implemented as a stand-alone workstation for use within a health club facility or medical professional's office.
In general, users enter their measurements, goals and current picture into the system. The Visual Fitness Planner analyzes the user's data, generates a daily fitness program to help the customer reach his or her goal, and produces an
45 after-fitness program image of the user. By setting the goals at an intermediate level, intermediate results can be projected and visualized
The system employs readily available image morphing technology, driven by specialized technology to sectionalize
50 the image into body components and predict specific size changes based upon physiological formulae and data tables.
In the preferred embodiment, the user, health club advisor, 55 or medical professional may use the system via a web site using a web browser, although in an alternate embodiment he or she may use the system directly. FIG. 1 illustrates the basic system components, including a browser computer (1) with Internet access (5), and a digital camera (2) or digital 60 scanner (4), and optionally a printer (3). The computer can be any of several well-known and readily available systems, such as IBM-compatible personal computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system equipped with a web browser software such as Microsoft's Explorer or 65 Netscape's Navigator, and appropriately equipped with a dial-up modem, cable modem, or Internet access via a local area network interface. Alternate computers, software and