Examining 'Exertainment'

Interactive fitness borrows tricks of the gaming industry trade to get people off the couch.

The fitness industry has always been innovative and eager to push its products to the next level. Sometimes it's a recipe for success and sometimes just the opposite. But, no matter what, it's always exciting. Now, the industry could be on the verge of a new excitement. Creating programming for participants is being changed and challenged by interactive technology that borrows from the gaming industry. This is not a new idea. In the early and mid-'80s, Atari came out with Project Puffer and Nintendo debuted its action pad. The idea was good, but the technology of the time couldn't support it. A few other products came out over the next 10 years, but none hit the mark. It wasn't until 1991 that the first major product, Dance Dance Revolution, emerged and was a commercial success. Since then, several other products have become major players in the "exertainment" industry. More than a few fingers have been pointed at the gaming industry for the American youth sedentary lifestyle. This growing industry had record revenues of $6 billion in 2000, and $11 billion in 2003. Eighty percent of homes with children have video games, and 60 percent of Americans play them. For the first time in the technology age, the cost and quality of the equipment are equitable. Now, the fitness and video game industries have joined forces to combat the obesity epidemic, as well as boost profits in a new niche market. Meet the major manufacturers and their products, games and prices, in the new "exertainment" market.

3 Kick

Manufacturer: FIT Premium Interactive Fitness Equipment Models: Master Ring, Corner Kick, Youth Ring and Single Post Description: 3 Kick is sturdy, with resilient foam pads that can be struck with shoes, bare feet, or open or closed hands. When the user strikes the foam pads, lights and tones are randomly activated within them. Points are rewarded based on speed. 3 Kick currently offers four models. Contact/purchasing information: www.fitinteractive.com Pricing:$2,500 to $9,000, depending on setup

Dance Dance Revolution

Manufacturer: Konami Description: Dance Dance Revolution is an interactive game with a simple concept: high-energy music and fun-filled game play that provides an energetic workout. Players are challenged to match their dance steps with the flashing arrows on the screen, while keeping up with the beat of the music. Games: New DDR Extreme, DDR Konamix, DDRmax, DDRmax2, Xbox DDR Ultramix and DDR Ultramix 2 Contact/purchasing information: www.ddrgame.com Pricing:$10,000 to $18,000 for a commercial video game unit


Manufacturer: Cateye Fitness Models: Gamebike, Gamebike Pro, Recumbent Game Bike Pro Description: GameBike is an exercise cycle and Plug-and-Play video game controller that controls every movement on the screen with users' own body movement. The cycle's handlebars control the steering, while the pedal rpm controls the speed. Users can connect to any Sony Playstation, PS2, XBox and Game Cube. They can choose from eight workload levels provided by silent belt-driven magnetic resistance system. There are two sizes: large for 61-to-79-inch-tall users, and small for 47-to-65-inch-tall users. While the Gamebike and Gamebike Pro use handlebars, the Recumbent Gamebike Pro has a steering wheel. It's also compatible with Polar heart rate monitors. Games: Playstation 2 compatible games: Artic Thunder, ATV Off Road Fury, Crazy Taxi, Driving Emotion Type S, Extreme G3, Formula One, Gadget Racers, Grand Touriamo 3. For a full list of compatible games, refer to the Cateye Gamebike website. Contact/purchasing information: www.cateyefitness.com/GameBike/index.html Pricing:Gamebike Pro: $1,199 (retail); Recumbent Game Bike Pro: $1,699


Manufacturer: Powergrid Fitness Models: Exerstation, Kilowatt Sport, Kilowatt Spark, Kilowatt Pro, Kilowatt Pro Jr. Description: ISOCOR technology (located in the alloy steel tube that connects the controller to the base) measures how hard users are pushing and pulling on the controller. The Kilowatt uses isometric strength training to drive its gaming system. Users push the Exerstation or Kilowatt controller in the direction they want their on-screen character to move. Two microprocessors translate the force into actual movement in the game. The harder they push, the faster they go. There are several levels of resistance, so that head-to-head gaming can take place even when there is a large strength differential for the participants. Games: Compatible with Playstation, Xbox and Gamecube; Need For Speed Underground (Xbox, PS2), Blood Wake (Xbox), 007: Everything or Nothing (Gamecube, PS2, Xbox), Mojo! (PS2), Smugglers Run (PS2), Ace Combat 4 (PS2), Fuzion Frenzy (Xbox), FIFA Soccer 2004 (Gamecube, PS2, Xbox); for a full list of compatible games, refer to the Powergrid Fitness website. Contact/purchasing information: www.powergridfitness.com Pricing:Exerstation: $199; all other models: $800 to $1,600


Manufacturer: Makoto USA Description: Makoto combines exercise with sensory integration therapy to improve neurological and physical performance. Every time users play, their performance is measured. Workouts take just 15 minutes. The Makoto arena measures users' reaction times and accuracy, so each time they try it, they are given a benchmark to improve on. The sound and light frequency can be set according to each person's ability. Competitive games and usage (for personal training, intra-team competition, intramurals, etc.) are listed within Makotocols, a guidebook of Makoto games. Some professional teams, such as the Denver Nuggets, use Makoto in team tryouts to measure players' physical and mental reactions. Games: There are more than 20 Makotocol games developed for individuals and two players using one to three of the unit's towers. There are sports-performance-oriented games, as well as medical and rehabilitative applications for patients suffering from neurological, orthopedic, speech and cardiorespiratory ailments. For a complete list of games, refer to the Makoto USA website. Contact/purchasing information: www.makoto-usa.com Pricing:$5,000 to $8,000

Playstation 2 and EyeToy

Manufacturer: Sony Description: EyeToy is a Playstation 2-exclusive technology that allows users to control and interact with games and friends. The EyeToy technology within the EyeToy USB Camera for Playstation 2 features motion-tracking light-sensing technology and a built-in microphone to record and detect audio. It can function as a simple photo and video camera, snapping photos, recording video and placing players on the TV. Users connect the EyeToy USB Camera for Playstation 2 to the Playstation 2 computer entertainment system via one of the USB ports, and insert an EyeToy-compatible title. Games: Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2, EyeToy:Kinetic, EyeToy:Operation Spy, Gretzky NHL '06, Karaoke Revolution Party, MLB '06: The Show, NBA '06, Sega Superstars, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, Topspin. For a full list of compatible games, refer to the Playstation 2 website. Contact/purchasing information: www.us.playstation.com/EyeToy.aspx Pricing:EyeToy: $30 to $40; games for EyeToy: $40 to $80

The Spark Bike

Manufacturer: Expresso Fitness Corporation Description: The Spark is a stationary bike with a built-in computer and flat-panel monitor that allows you to race against virtual riders through a variety of simulated outdoor courses. The Spark has movable handlebars to steer you through the three-dimensional virtual trails on its screen, and a gearshift for tackling the many hills you encounter. The bike also has Internet connections, so that riders can listen to Internet radio, as well as being able to download the new simulated outdoor courses that Expresso releases. Contact/purchasing information: www.expressofitness.com Pricing:Retails at $5,000


Manufacturer: Sportwall International Inc. Models: Sportwall Interactive Group Fitness for all ages; Performance Systems for Tennis; Education for Physical Education, Special Education, Adaptive Physical Education; Sportwall Junior Fitness Description: Interactive turnkey individual and group fitness and athletic training systems are packaged with programs and curriculum for cardiovascular training, neurological efficiency, core strength, speed/agility and motor skills training for four markets: Sportwall individual and group fitness for the fitness industry and YMCAs; Performance & Sports Systems; Education - PE, Special Ed and Adapted PE; and rehabilitation/medical. Contact/purchasing information: www.sportwall.com Pricing:Contact Sportwall International to receive a quote.


Manufacturer: Cybex Models: The Cybex Trazer Description: The Trazer is a computer-based system that combines the training effectiveness of a flight simulator and the challenge of video games to create fun and functional fitness challenges, games, tests, drills and rehabilitation programs. The Trazer uses movement tracking and virtual reality technologies to create programs that measure and improve functional and sports performance movement skills. It measures the key elements of agility, coordination and balance, reaction time, quickness, speed, movement power and optimal center of gravity control for power and stability. The Trazer also estimates calories used and, if used while wearing a Polar or Polar-compatible heart rate monitor, measures average and peak beats per minutes. Games: Performance analysis of reaction time, power, speed, center of gravity height. Performance training games are Trap Attack, Jump Explosion, Spike Dodge, Goalie Wars and Fun Fusion. Contact/purchasing information: www.cybextrazer.com Pricing:$7,000 to $8,000


Manufacturer: SSD Company Limited Model: XaviXPORT Description: Based on the XaviX multiprocessor chip, XaviXPORT combines human interface technology - for example, photo-sensor and infrared - to allow a TV to respond to users' actions. To play XaviXGames, players use reality accessories to hit a pitch, return a serve or bowl a strike while the system responds to the speed, direction and angle of their motion. Games: Golf, Baseball, Bowling, Tennis, J-Mat, Power Boxing Contact/purchasing information: www.xavix.com/products/index.htm; www.xavixstore.com Pricing:The XaviXPORT multiprocessor: $80; all games are priced between $50 and $90

A fit for your market?

Other manufacturers plan to enter the exertainment market, but the preceding manufacturers are the primary companies that currently have products available. As exertainment becomes more mainstream, and fitness centers try to reach the Xbox generation, more innovative products will enter into the market. In fact, there are facilities now opening that offer exclusively exertainment, like Bulldog Interactive Fitness (www.bulldoginteractivefitness.com) in Dartmouth, Canada, and Xrtainmnet Zone (www.xrtainmentzone.com) in Redlands, Calif. Depending on your target market, you might want to educate yourself on these new products.
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