A few days ago a package arrived in my mailbox at the Institute. It was addressed to me, with both my Stanford and IFTF title, jumbled together.
I opened it up, and it turned out to be a copy of Yourself!Fitness, an XBox game (well, not quite game; I’ll get to that momentarily) that comes out this month, some glossy press releases, a small towel, and a water bottle. Obviously, a PR person saw the New York Times article on the convergence of sports and pervasive computing that quoted me, and added me to their mailing list. I’m an influencer. Hey.
Maybe I could get quoted in an article about automotive telematics next.
The game isn’t a game, in the sense that you use the game pad to navigate around and blow stuff up. Nor is it quite like Dance Dance Revolution, in that there’s no substitute for the pad. It’s more like an interactive version of an exercise video. You first input your weight, do some cardio and strength tests, and fill out a form about your exercise goals, and it creates a profile for you. You also tell it if you already have any exercise equipment (hand weights, Pilates ball, whatever), and it figures out what kinds of exercises it can make you do.
Then it’s on to the workout schedule (how many sessions per week, how many minutes per session), and your first workout. It’s supposed to keep track of your progress, vary the workouts, adjust to changing goals, and even vary the environment: it moves from urban health club– not the gritty kind that trains bantamweight boxers, but the sleek 50th floor kind with helicopters outside the window– to dojo– which looks confusingly like the room in The Matrix where Neo shows off his kung fu skills– to desert resort, to a tropical island. (This seems to borrow from the convention of exercise videos, which often are shot in exotic, or at least luxurious, locations.)
In one sense, it’s a low-tech affair: it doesn’t connect to your heart monitor, or get information from sensors in the weights. Instead, it looks to me like they’ve put more energy into varying the experience enough to keep it from getting dull and staying physically challenging, and making the trainer seem reasonably human. She doesn’t just stand frozen while waiting for you to do things, but fidgets a bit, and grows more or less verbal depending on how you report the last workout went. I’m curious whether the designers made the calculation that environment, variety and character realism were the keys to attracting women users, or whether they just thought it was self-evidently the way to go.
Maybe my writing anything about the game means that I’ve sold out, and gone over to the dark side. But I could use a new car. And I hear that the nagivation system on the Audi S8 is extremely cool.