NordicTrack customers hacked their treadmills to watch Netflix until the company blocked them

Originally published at: NordicTrack customers hacked their treadmills to watch Netflix until the company blocked them | Boing Boing


How dare people think an item they paid $4000 for is theirs to with what they like in a safe and legal way? The nerve!


they could always park a basic treadmill next to a TV.

At a far lower cost than this integrated walled running track.


We bought a used Nordic track for $400 and put an Amazon Fire on a gooseneck tablet holder in front of it, so we get to watch the whole streaming universe as we perspire.

But I wish I’d been smart enough to think about just parking the damn thing next to a TV…


But think about the gains in safety, when people aren’t walking around outside glued to their screens. /s


Especially people with dogs. I hate it when people walking their dog cares more about their phone.


That was totally my thought here. Forgive me for stereotyping, but this scenario immediately played in my head.

Act 1: “A-hah! I can watch Netflix full screen while running.”

Act 2: “Oh noes, I was so engrossed in watching Stupid Things, mis stepped and hurt myself.”

Act 3: “NordicTrack didn’t prevent me from doing something stupid. I Can Haz Money?”


I picked up a rowing machine recently, and sit it in front of the telly when using it. It’s great!


The more impressive hacking is to link the speed and elevation to the movie that you are watching. They have reversed engineered the protocol, so you can link video to the “machine instructions”. Now, map this to some sporting match or star fighter battle. Dive, climb, speed, etc. I’d like to see that.


These people should absolutely be able to access the android tablet. Although that said, you could buy a much cheaper treadmill and just velcro a normal tablet to it.

To be fair then you wouldn’t be able to do the official videos and it wouldn’t look as nice.


Thier official statement kind of makes sense, they don’t want people screwing with the software that controls the treadmill creating a dangerous situation.

But, why not turn it into a premium feature. For an extra 5 10 bucks a month you get a complete operating system like a tablet or phone so you can access your favorite content while exercising. Turn it into a feature, why would they care if you’re using Netflix or iFit as long as they get their cash. They can keep the service mode locked down.

I’ve been using treadmills for well over 20 years I first started with headphones and then switched to a computer screen so I could read. Once the tech got there I watched Hulu on the computer. Now I just have a smart tv on the wall.


I wonder if a competitor is going to offer a treadmill with easily accessible screen that plays nicely with others.


Or… Just hear me out… People buy a $1000 treadmill, a $400 tv, $100 mounting hardware, a $30 Chromecast, and stop whining about buying hideously overpriced internet of crap garbage.


Exactly. Who ultimately owns the treadmill?

(If I were the company, I would “lease” the treadmill to the customer as opposed to selling the treadmill so that I could enforce terms of use. This is similar to how no postage meter can ever be sold, and company must maintain control of their hardware.)


I have one of the original X-Country ski simulators, purchased in the mid 1980s. No screens, but they did provide an extendable arm out front that you could hang sandwiches from. You can see it in this photo, with the sandwich strings tucked into their holders. Still works great, I have tried treadmills but don’t like them; maybe because I tried the X-C first?


Looks the same once you’re using it as a clothes rack.


Through my insurance, for less than $39 a month, I get access to about 60 gyms in my area, including the extraordinarily nice one with an indoor track, pool facilities, and a climbing wall. I also did not have a $4K initial outlay. Admittedly, it does mean I have to leave the house if I want to go for a run or otherwise do a workout, but I could always just go for one outside (weather permitting) or use our treadmill that we got used for $120. (I have a TV and a set of headphones, thank you.)


The unfortunate thing is that it only makes sense if it’s also deeply damning.

It’s not as extreme, given that a treadmill just can’t fail as dramatically, but saying “our infotainment tablet has safety-critical control over the dangerous moving parts” is, in terms of engineering classiness, on par with “we decided to run the avionics and the seatback entertainment on the same hardware”.

Even without any modification, the state of your average Android BSP running on whatever valu-application processor happened to get the nod just isn’t close to being reliable enough(and may not even intend to deliver useful features, like hard real time assurances) to trust to oversee moving parts that could start chewing on the user in fairly short order.

If user tampering with the infotainment screen is in fact a serious safety problem NordicTrack needs a CPSC beating and a formally verified real-time control system. If it’s not; then locking the infotainment screen down to drive subscription revenue is the usual arrogant, transparently user hostile, high-handed bullshit.


I suppose they could always park a basic treadmill next to a TV.

Says it all, really.


Not really. The reason people want this model of treadmill is because it has speed and elevation controls integrated into the media playback to give targeted workouts that can sync with the video. It’s more than just a treadmill with a TV screen attached - it’s more akin to DRMed teledildonics, where the maker of a stimulation device DRMed it to motion sync to only their own videos but users wanted to be able to use the device with the videos of their choice. (Not sure if that’s actually “teledildonics” or if there is another name for that situation - not really that well versed in the field… :thinking: )