Sunday, March 29, 2009

3 New Tricks to Lose Weight: Track Every Step, Measure Every Calorie

I was contacted by Sari Harrar, a health/medicine journalist for OPRAH Magazine, for comments on if the GoWear Fit might help people lose weight.  I have been using the Body Media Sensewear Armband for a number of years and it is the parent company of their commercial unit GoWear Fit.  We had a great discussion and here is the article that was posted online earlier this month (my comments are the concluding remarks).

Exercise researcher Stephen Yang, PhD, an assistant professor of physical education at State University of New York College at Cortland, says this innovative armband takes the guesswork out of one side of the weight loss equation. "Until recently, mainly research labs used devices that measured calorie burn this way," he says. "Seeing the numbers can be a real motivator and will help keep you from missing workouts." Use the GoWear Fit to figure out how much additional activity you need to burn an extra 500 calories a day. If you keep up that effort, you should drop about a pound a week.

Can games like 'Wii Fit' really work it?

I was contacted by Kim Painter, Senior Health Columnist for USA Today, for comments on how effective exergames are for cardiovascular benefits and overall health. We had a great discussion and here is the article that was just posted online today.

But games that are more demanding, more interactive or both are on the way or already available, says Stephen Yang, assistant professor of physical education at the State University of New York-Cortland. For addictive, calorie-burning fun, Yang recommends Eye Toy Kinetic (for PlayStation2), a workout game that points a camera at the user to track movements and provide instant feedback.

He also likes tween favorite Dance Dance Revolution (for various game systems), which is not marketed as an exercise game but fits the bill. And he directs parents to Gamercize, a British import that connects to any video game system — and keeps it running only as long as the user keeps moving on a mini-bike or step machine.

The future will bring games that track heart rates and keep exercisers working at a challenging but safe pace, he says. Virtual group workouts, with participants connected online to a live coach, will happen, too, he says.

But the games that work best, Yang says, will be the ones that are the most fun.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wii Balance Board Stepmania Hack

The Exergaming World is flourishing and the proof is in the pudding. Every day there are games that are surfacing that might encourage someone to engage and enjoy physical activity. As a physical educator, sometimes we assume we know what our students will enjoy, but that is not always the case. You never know what will be appealing and therefore you must always be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. David Lippman, a Mathematics professor at Pierce College at Ft Steilacoom in Lakewood, WA, contacted me about his Wii Balance Board Stepmania hack. I've always said that because of how accessible all these gaming devices have become, more and more people will be able to create novel games and user interfaces.

Stepmania with a Balance Board from David Lippman on Vimeo.

Thank you David for the great video and for providing the code for us to use...and for making us feel like we're actual hackers. I am going to try it out and see how it works.

He also mentioned that Cardio Boxing is on the way:
Punch left (nunchuck) on down arrow; punch right (wiimote) on up arrow. Step on balance board for left/right arrows

And here is the rest of it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wii Wanna Rock N' Roll All Climb (Night)

Out of GDC 2009, comes a Wii Balance Board WiiWare game demo - although there was no Rock N' Roll - just rock climbing. Only at the end of the stage (finished climbing the rock) is there Rock N' Roll....better later then never?

And here is the rest of it.
The horizontal bar underneath the climber is an indication of where the player is standing on the Balance Board.
[Via Kombo]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Muve & Gruve: Promting Physical Activity

I mentioned at the Health Promotion Conference the importance of Dr. James Levine's work from the Mayo clinic, and here is the commercial fruit of his expertise. Capitalizing on the Dr. Levine's work on Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), the Mayo clinic started a company called Muve and hired Worrell design firm to develop a triaxial accelerometer that was unique and allowed the user to download the data and interpret the results. As I've mentioned before, this departure to make the information consumer-friendly and the user-interface simple, marks a big shift in previous accelerometers on the market.
The interesting component built into the Muve is the fact that after a pre-determined amount of time, the accelerometer will emit a differnt color and vibrate to prompt you to get up and move around. I'm not sure if the device measures how long you take a break from being sedentary - I would assume so, b/c I could see people getting up for minute and jumping around just so they could get back to work. I also assume that when the Muve lights up RED that its time to move and if its GREEN you don't have to move. I would love to try one out before it's release ... supposedly on March 23, 2009 - but I haven't seen a press release for it yet. I'll keep you informed.

For more information on devices that measure physical activity and please see these posts: accelerometers or FitBit or GoWear Fit.

Here are more images of the Muve device.

The Gruve Solution includes the following:

Gruve - Your personalized, real time activity monitor
Gruve Online - The online resource which stores your data and provides education, motivation and support
Gruve Guide - The 12 week program that teaches and leads you toward a healthier, active lifestyle

Gruve with a ONE YEAR online subscription $300
Gruve with a TWO YEAR online subscription $460

Welcome Squee and Move over Mii

In the first big exergaming news out of GDC 2009, Performance Designed Products (PDP) just released footage of their new gaming peripheral - Gametrak Freedom. It will first launch for Xbox 360 this fall then PS3 sometime after. I remember trying out Gametrak RealWorld Golf and thought it was fun but I really wanted to try Dark Wind. According to this source:
In 2008, In2Games, along with Squeeballs and the Gametrak and Gametrak Freedom technologies, was acquired by US peripherals group, PDP, owners of the Pelican range of gaming products
From IGN's initial reviews and footage from their website it looks like a mixture of Wii Sports and EyeToy Play. Instead of heavily customizing your Mii or Xbox profile, you can choose to be one of the 12 Squeeballs (Fangs, Aardi, Boris, Mow-Mow, Octo, Sushi, Fuzz, Stubby, Snood, Bully,Craboom, and El Toro).

There are 11 mini-games and a reported "150+ mini-game challenges" and you can hook up to 4 controllers up to a system. As in the Wii-mote there are accelerometers that determine the pitch, roll, and yaw of the device. But instead of using LED sensors (Wii) to determine distance, orientation, and speed - it uses proprietary 3D (3 pulses) ultrasonic sensors plus a fourth pulse for added accuracy.
Squee on my friends...squee on!

Here are the games that will ship Fall 2009:
Tenpin Bowling – See the Squeeballs cower as the ball approaches and hear them laugh if you miss them. Curve the
ball left or right after you’ve thrown it by circling your arm clockwise (curves right) or counter-clockwise (left).
Feeding Frenzy – Fire the correct Squeeballs at the hungry El Toro’s or they will eat you.
Cannon – Swing the racket at the Squeeballs as they are fired at you. Accuracy and distance are key.
Cooking – Dice, slice, grate, season, and stir Squeeballs in special dishes prepared for El Toro.
Crazy Lanes – Bowling down the wackiest, curvy lanes ever with lava and bombs to avoid.
Paint by Squeeballs – Catapult the correct Squeeballs to get the right colors on the right picture.
Creature Testing Belt – Follow the Squeeballs on the conveyor belt. Pop, slice and punch as you must.
Pumping – Inflate the Snoods with the right amount of air and fly them through the course.
Squeeball Golf – Aim, spin your arms and send Octo flying through the air, skimming the water and find dry land.
Shock – Steady as she goes along the electric wire or else.
Stampede – Fire the Crabooms at the approaching Squeeballs before they reach you.

And here is the rest of it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

LifeScan's Go Go Glucometer

True to my 2009 predictions for at least a dozen more health egames for the iPhone, LifeScan will be coming out with their new Glucometer iPhone interface to track insulin levels.

WIBC #5 (Wouldn't It Be Cool)
Now the real trick is to harness the built-in accelerometer to track physical activity and the camera (done in other formats and studies) to track food and now we're talking ubiquitous and useful! Any programmers out there interested in collaborating?

[Via Medgadget]

CogniFit Personal Coach

Can't remember where you put your keys or if you've taken your vitamins??....CogniFit is an Israeli company that hopes to have your business to improve your mental skills. After taking a baseline series of assessments, the company will provide an individualized cognitive training program with plenty of formative and summative feedback. Seeing this and hearing all the positive and not so positive results of other brain training games, makes me want to investigate the studies and games a little to see what's really going on. As for the keys, well your guess is as good as mine.

[Via Medgadget]
And here is the rest of it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Puppy Pedometer

TakaraTomy from Japan is concerned about your best friend's health, and is releasing a pedometer built to detect a dog's movements. I wonder if they have incorporated an accelerometer so that it is not solely measuring steps - kind of like the MVPA pedometer from New Lifestyles?

[Via TechBlips and Newlaunches]

Friday, March 20, 2009

DS My Weight Loss Coach Hands-on - It's Big!

It's Big! At the Exergaming Retreat, Ubisoft Exec Jeff Dickstein provided samples of the Nintendo DS title "My Weight Loss Coach". Thanks Jeff! I love the idea of connecting physical activity to game play and having these goals logged (after you insert the pedometer into the bottom) on your DS. The start up screens get really tedious flipping through them - I wish it had a "Skip" function. The pedometer itself, well I think you can tell by the pictures that it's just too big and bulky. I will load some comparison shots later on but it's no where near the size of a normal pedometer or even that of the new ones for Wii. That being said, I really like the functionality of the software and how it guides you through your data.

Here are some other review from the game sites:

My Weight Loss Coach Reviews

Other reviews of My Weight Loss Coach
IGN ** 7 / 10 Aug 5, 2008
Eurogamer ** 6 / 10 Sep 11, 2008
Thunderbolt ** 5 / 10 Jul 29, 2008
Pocket Gamer UK ** 5 / 10 Jul 7, 2008

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

HopeLab's gDitty

Ellen LaPointe from HopeLab presented their initial prototype called gDitty at the Games for Health Exergaming Retreat in August. She asked us not to talk about it until they released their own reports. And after sitting on the news for such a long time, I found some images and a short report on their trials.
The gDitty is a clip on prototpye accelerometer that is tied to a web-based rewards system with a USB interface. Recently, they released a report from their pilot usability scenario. After seeing this prototype up close and holding it, it has a cool form factor but I think devices like the FitBit will be ultimately more useful as it has a wireless USB connection whenever the device is within range of the base. I just think the fewer things (steps, cords, USB plugs) to deal with - the easier it will be for kids (or even adults).

See other posts on accelerometers or FitBit or GoWear Fit

As someone who has used multiple devices to measure physical activity and energy expenditure (pedometers, accelerometers, heart rate monitors, galvanic skin response, and metabolic carts), it is difficult to compare results between studies because of the many devices that are used in studies. For example, we did a three year survey of physical activity articles and abstracts in RQES and found 15 different pedometers models and then another 20 studies where the pedometer was unspecified. As a profession we're not helping ourselves when we keep using different assessment tools - but on the other hand I also appreciate the amount of work that went into the R&D of building a product from the ground up.

Corrections: 1. Thanks Nicole for correcting my original typos. 2. Thanks Richard for the updated logo.

[Via Uncommon Projects]

Health eGames at the 2009 Health Promotion Conference

Being invited to speak at the American Journal of Health Promotion conference was an honor and it was really well organized and run. Dr. Micheal O"Donnell (Editor of AMHP), Dr. Bill Baun, the other organizers, volunteers, and Dr. Baum's students were really helpful at keeping everything running smoothly. I will post my presentation here later on once I reduce some of images. San Francisco was such a fabulous host too and we ate as well as a family could. From all the great spots near Fisherman's Wharf and all the places we hit in Chinatown - there was not one meal that disappointed us. Everyone in town was also so friendly and helpful that it made our experience that much better.

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