Thursday, February 23, 2006

NYT article on videogame exercise

The New York Times article on videogame fitness trainers came out, and it's great! I don't know why I'm surprised any time newspaper articles are accurate, but everything there I had anything to do with is correct. The article covers Yourself!Fitness and Eyetoy:Kinetic in some detail, and I got to provide color commentary:
IT'S not every personal trainer who inspires a client to write poetry in her honor. But after a few weeks of training with doe-eyed Maya, Glen Raphael couldn't help but extol her virtues in verse: "Sweet Maya never sleeps or even tires/I rarely get a sense that she perspires."
Hey! I'm a published poet! Coool!
Posting such ardent poetry might be embarrassing — if Maya could actually read it.
Or...if an excerpt were published in newspapers around the world so everyone else could read it. That also might be embarrassing. [The full poem, cheesy as it is, can be found here.]
But Maya is not a real person; she is a computer-simulated woman designed to be an ideal trainer. "She's my personal trainer," said Mr. Raphael, 38, a software engineer in San Francisco. "She just happens to live in my television."
Virtual trainers in such programs come to seem real to the people who use them not only because they are designed to be affable but also because, through the magic of computing, they can actually keep track of users' progress over months. Unlike fitness DVD's that show the same exercises day after day, virtual trainers can suggest ever-more-difficult workouts.

In just over a year, more than 100,000 copies of Yourself!Fitness have been sold, a drop in the bucket compared with the mammoth sales of traditional games. But at-home exercisers, out-of-shape novices and video game players who have tried the game say they enjoy combining exercise with a video game and that, with consistent use, it helps boost fitness.


The makers of Yourself!Fitness are working on a sequel, one that will do away with glitches and provide more gaming hooks so users don't get bored. The idea is to offer a dose of exercise that doesn't seem like medicine. "The fitness component isn't what is driving people," Mr. Lowenstein said. "It's the 'Matrix'-like experience."
Read the whole thing.

[cross-posted with]


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