Thursday, May 31, 2007

Exercise, or the (virtual) puppy gets it!

Combine the idea of tamigotchi - a virtual pet - with a real-world exercise interface. Wear a step counter and set yourself a daily exercise goal. If you meet the goal, your virtual pet gets healthier. Miss your goal, and your pet gets more sickly and weak.

The research study (pdf) used virtual fish in a common fishbowl and standard pedometers whose displays were read using OCR. There are many obvious potential improvements, but it seems like an excellent start at a way to motivate people to achieve any number of goals.
a persuasive data visualization that maps a player’s daily foot step count to the growth & activity of an animated virtual character, a fish in a fish tank. the "Fish’n’Steps" application links the size of a fish as the step count, while success in reaching a participant’s daily goal affects its facial expression (e.g. happy, angry or sad). baby fish appear once the upper appearance level is reached.

some fish tanks also include other players’ fish, to create an environment of both cooperation & competition. in a 14-week study with 19 participants, the game served as a catalyst for promoting exercise & for improving game players’ attitudes towards physical activity.
(ht: information aesthetics )

UPDATE: In the comments, Dani mentions vMigo, a virtual dog product where the game controller includes a pedometer and you get "pet points" for taking your virtual dog on walks with you. What a great feature!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Human Tetris!

There's a Japanese game show in which contestants must quickly contort themselves to fit through a hole in an approaching wall. Fail to fit properly and you'll get pushed into the water! Here's a video instruction:

And a late round of play:

It's not very aerobic, but seems like it could do wonders for one's flexibility. Several more video examples here.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More schools adopting exercise games

The New York Times just had a good article on the continuing trend, with comments by educators and parents in several states:

Dance Dance Revolution [is] the latest weapon in the nation’s battle against the epidemic of childhood obesity. While traditional video games are often criticized for contributing to the expanding waistlines of the nation’s children, at least several hundred schools in at least 10 states are now using Dance Dance Revolution, or D.D.R., as a regular part of their physical education curriculum.

Based on current plans, more than 1,500 schools are expected to be using the game by the end of the decade. [...]

“Traditionally, physical education was about team sports and was very skills oriented,” said Chad Fenwick, who oversees physical education for the Los Angeles Unified School District, where about 40 schools now use Dance Dance Revolution. “What you’re seeing is a move toward activities where you don’t need to be so great at catching and throwing and things like that, so we can appeal to a wider range of kids.” [...]

As a result of a partnership among West Virginia’s Department of Education, its Public Employees Insurance Agency and West Virginia University, the state has committed to installing the game in all 765 of its public schools by next year. Almost all of its 185 middle schools already use it.

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