LAS VEGAS — The gaming and mobile world is taking hold of fitness, and it doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.
In early January, the four-day International Consumer Electronics Show sponsored its first-ever “Cardio PlayZone,” a specific spot at the show that featured six companies that manufacture or supply cardio-related gaming software.
These cardio-inspired companies are hoping to profit and help children and adults get healthier by throwing in a little bit of fun.
One exhibitor at the show, Cyclescore, was funded by a grant from the MIT iCampus program that funds students who propose innovative technical projects that improve campus life. The project consists of riding a stationary bike while doing one of two games: pedaling a hot air balloon over mountains to collect coins and shoot targets, or pedaling to increase an energy meter while flying around in a spaceship and shooting down enemies. Each time the player shoots, the energy meter is depleted.
The games automatically decrease or increase in difficulty depending on the player's game-playing skill and fitness level, a feature that David Edery, leader of the MIT graduate program, calls a “Difficulty Management System.” The project is not yet sold, but Edery hopes to be to market within a year, he said.
“I have been an exercise devotee since high school and have always wanted to bring video games and exercise together,” Edery said. “I think it's a natural fit.”
Some of the other exhibitors at the show were Electric-Spin, Empower, Hotseat Chassis DNC, Konami and Powergrid Fitness.
Makoto, a mental training and sports tool, has also seen a boom in the exergaming field, especially with the immense popularity of Dance Dance Revolution. The product, a staff that is used to hit specific targets according to sounds, is used not only for getting the heart rate up, but also for increasing concentration in various age groups from small children and teenagers with learning disabilities to professional athletes.
Also in on the technology-fitness partnership is 2Thumbz Entertainment and UNC Health Care. Following another trend in fitness technology, UNC Health Care will provide health applications for cell phones and other wireless devices including a calorie counter, carb counter, pedometer, personal trainer and a stop-smoking aid.
“We are always looking for new ways to get health information into the hands of people, and this is a great way to keep fitness and wellness top of mind each and every day,” Karen McCall, vice president of public affairs and marketing for UNC health care, said.
Applications let users set target weight goals and get feedback on the number of days required to meet their desired weight based on calorie consumption and activity levels. The technology includes a database of nutritional information for 500 popular food types and beverages, including items from fast-food restaurants and different types of beer.
In a similar move, Weight Watchers launched its mobile weight-loss application that synchs with a Web-based account. Weight Watchers On-the-Go allows subscribers to get food lists and weight-loss tools. The application synchronizes data between handheld devices and on-line accounts.