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Get ready for exertainment

My first encounter with "exertainment?" It's gotta be when the StairMaster went from the revolving stairs model to the stepper model with the LED display. Using the display the StairMaster allowed you to see the hills you were climbing or even enter a kind of race mode. Lame? Sure, but it was something to keep you a little more engaged. The alternative? Staring at the hanging TVs and watching CNN, which clearly only detracts from the goal at hand. Now, one of the stair climbers was made by Bally, and being an arcade game junkie from the early 80s I could only dream of where the exercise/gaming marriage could go.

Well, check out the Cardio Playzone at CES this year:

Fitness today means high-intensity products and technologies that entertain us while we’re getting a maximum cardio workout. They’re the products that count calories burned or speed. They help increase/decrease intensity levels, feature videos or play music that make a killer workout fun. If you manufacture products that entertain end users—while they increase their heart rate and burn calories—then consider featuring it in the Cardio PlayZone at the 2005 International CES.

Now we're talking -- workout equipment that engages the mind and the body. You'll notice Konami on the list, and if you aren't familiar with this company they are behind the Dance Dance Revolution games (among other things). If you haven't heard of Dance Dance Revolution (which I believe Kathy mentioned in a previous post), it's a deceivingly simple game where you follow arrows on screen that direct your movements on a dance mat (a PS2 or Xbox is also required).
The dance mat itself is cleverly just a controller for the game console. This game has been wildly successful in the arcades and in the home and has many documented cases of (what I'd call life saving) weight loss by many people. Check out http://www.getupmove.com/ for more.

Another company, Powergrid Fitness, has designed an isometric strength device as a game controller. The idea is that you do your isometric exercises as you control existing video action games (cars, tanks, etc.).

The list wouldn't be complete without a golf game. Electric Spin has created a USB controller that allows you to swing a real club and hit a simulated golf ball. The system works with Tiger Wood's 2004 PGA game. While it is a cool concept, it is hard for me to see how this really qualifies as exercise, other than being able to work on your swing. I guess if it gets people off the couch, it's a step in the right direction.

Clearly we're in the early adopter phase of exertainment, however I tend to think the aerobic types of activities are going to be the winners in this space. I've never personally felt like I needed a game to get through a strength set of exercises. However, with aerobics, boredom easily sets in (unless you can mountain bike every day) and games like Dance Dance Revolution have the additional benefit of teaching you a heck of a lot of timing and coordination. Also, it's not all about playing a typical video game and controlling it via some exercise apperatus. There are lots of metrics that can be used to drive games from heart rate, skin conductance, and so on. In fact, in the next day or so I'll introduce a totally different kind of computer mind/body game that is a little on the edge....

Posted by Eric Freeman on January 11, 2005 | Permalink

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