Sunday, May 04, 2008

Rock Band: Learn To Drum!

Rock Band is a game for XBox, PS3, and PS2. It's a follow-on to Guitar Hero; all the songs have parts for guitar, bass, vocals, and drums. The great thing about the drums peripheral is that just playing the game actually teaches you drumming. If you can play this game on the Hard level, you can basically play drums. Which turns out to be a decent workout! At least it was for me - I was tired and had sore arms and shoulders after a few hours of play. I suspect as you get better at drumming you move more efficiently so it's not quite as much exercise for an expert as it would be for a novice, but then you can play faster and fuller rhythms.

Here's a real drummer playing in Expert mode:

As for me, I can currently get through 41 of the 58 songs in Hard mode. Yesterday I was stuck on Vasoline, so to speak. Green Grass and High Tides is exhausting. Ballroom Blitz is a blast! Go With The Flow is kind of insane. Once Hard level is mastered I'll probably buy a real (albeit still electronic) drum kit and see what I can do with some dynamic range...

A few links:Plus as a special added bonus - a collection of jokes:
Q: What do you call a guy who hangs out with musicians?
A: A drummer.

Q: How can you tell that there's a drummer at your front door?
A: The knocking gets faster and faster.
A: He doesn't know when to come in.

Q: What's the difference between a musician and a savings bond?
A: One of them eventually matures and earns money.

Q: Why is a drum machine better than a drummer?
A: Because it can keep good time and won't sleep with your girlfriend.

Q: Why do guitarists put drumsticks on the dash of their car?
A: So they can park in the handicapped spot

Q: How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None, they have machines that do that now.

Q: How do you tell if the stage is level?
A: The drummer is drooling from both sides of his mouth.

Q: What's the thing you would never hear a drummer says?
A: "Hey guys, why don't we try one of my songs?

Q: How is a drum solo like a sneeze?
A: You can tell it's coming, but you can't do anything about it.

Q: How do you get a drummer away from your front door?
A: Pay him for the pizza.

Q: What do you call a drummer that breaks up with his girlfriend?
A: Homeless.

Q: What's the difference between a large pizza and a drummer?
A: The pizza can feed a family.

Share this:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cyberwalk: an omnidirectional treadmill

Cyberwalk is a treadmill-of-treadmills (produced by a German company) that allows someone to physically walk or run any distance in any direction in a virtual world while remaining in a single space. Here's a video.

They have a website. There's a brochure on the project here (pdf).

So which would you rather have in your house: a Cyberwalk, or a VirtuSphere?

Share this:

Wii Fit finally to be released in US

Wii Fit will finally be available in the US starting May 19, 2008 for a retail price of $89.99. You can preorder now from amazon.

One blogger successfully used the Japanese version to get in shape and lose weight for his wedding. Here's the final report on what he calls The Great Experiment and here are his individual weekly reports.

Share this:

Friday, September 21, 2007

Real-life Donkey Kong

Here's an attempt to play the first level of Donkey Kong in real life. Looks like fun!

Share this:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Arm-wrestling game recalled for breaking arms

Some games are apparently more vigorous than others. The Story:
Japanese game maker Atlus said on Tuesday that it would remove 150 Arm Spirit arm-wrestling machines from Japanese arcades after three players broke their arms while wrestling with the machine's mechanized appendage.

"The machine isn't that strong, much less so than a muscular man," said an Atlus spokeswoman. "Even women should be able to beat it," the company claimed, saying that it would check the machines for malfunctions as "a precaution."

Share this:

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wii Fit

Wii Fit is new software for staying in shape with the Nintendo Wii. Here's the 2007 E3 demo reel:

The new controller is tentatively named the "Wii Balance Board". The game is intended to release in Japan Q4 2007, then in the US in the first half of 2008.
UPDATE: Here's a parody version of the same video, courtesy of

Share this:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another take on live-action Pacman

Not so much "exercise" as "silly", but you gotta love Japanese game shows...

Share this:

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!

Share this:

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.

Share this:

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.

Share this:

Monday, February 19, 2007

Maya's sequel is back in the works!

According to a recent posting to the Yourself!Fitness discussion board, the long-delayed next installment of the franchise, Yourself!Fitness Lifestyle, is back on track. Full details to be released "soon". Hurray!

Here's the full announcement:
Dear faithful Yourself!Fitness customers,

The responDESIGN Team wishes all the fans of Maya and Yourself!Fitness a happy and healthy Valentine's Day!

We are as excited as ever about the future of fitness gaming and are looking forward to a bright future for Maya and the Yourself!Fitness brand of fitness products.

We have inventory of our Yourself!Fitness for the Xbox, Playstation 2 and PC, as well as many of the accessories you've asked for like the Y!F Stability Ball, Y!F Water Bottles and more.

We are working on the next Yourself!Fitness title called Y!F Lifestyle to be released on the new game consoles and the PC. Y!F Lifestyle has many of the new features that you asked us to create and we will be releasing the details for this new product soon!

Please stay tuned for more great fitness gaming products from your friends at responDESIGN and Yourself!Fitness.

The responDESIGN/Yourself!Fitness Team.


Share this:

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Action Videogames Improve Eyesight

From this article:
Video games that contain high levels of action, such as Unreal Tournament, can actually improve your vision, according to a group of Researchers at the University of Rochester.

In an article to be published in Psychological Science, they have shown that people who played action video games for a few hours a day over the course of a month improved by about 20 percent in their ability to identify letters presented in clutter—a visual acuity test similar to ones used in regular ophthalmology clinics.

In essence, playing video game improves your bottom line on a standard eye chart.

Share this:

Friday, February 02, 2007

Conan O'Brien beats Serena Williams at Wii Tennis

Share this:

Time: "Is the Wii Really Good for Your Health?"

Time magazine recently posted an excellent article on videogame fitness, focusing mainly on the Wii but also bringing in a variety of related articles and scientific findings on using videogames as exercise or rehabilitative therapy.
Not only have some gamers started turning the Wii and other similar active gaming consoles into a new form of exercise, but medical researchers are touting their health potential for more than just weight loss. A research team at the University of Toronto is developing a "therapeutic video game" to treat children who suffer from hemiplegic cerebral palsy, a condition that can partially paralyze one side of the body. If the children regularly use their weaker side, their motor function can improve. The problem is getting the children to do so outside of therapy sessions. Active video games might do the trick, thought William Li, an undergraduate engineering student at the University of Toronto who is conducting research at the university's Bloorview Kids Rehab teaching hospital.


But weight loss is still probably the biggest health benefit the Wii will have for users. Active video games like the Wii can fight child obesity, according to a report published by the Mayo Clinic in the January issue of Pediatrics. In that study, researchers found that children burned three times as many calories playing "active" video games versus playing traditional hand-held video games. Because the study was done before the Wii debuted, researchers tested Sony's EyeToy and Microsoft's Xbox. But Lorraine Lanningham-Foster, the report's lead researcher, expects the Wii to have the same effect. "If children are up moving around versus sitting down, then they're going to burn more calories," she says.
Also, our previously-mentioned Mickey DeLorenzo has signed a deal on a book tentatively titled The Wii Workout. Read the whole thing.

Share this:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Live-Action BomberMan!

This is seriously cool:

In a large empty room, an overhead fisheye lens identifies players by the color of their caps and roughly maps human movement to game character movement. What other games would this interface work well for? Frogger? Donkey Kong? Pac Man?

Share this:

Thursday, January 18, 2007

ArsTechnica on Videogame Fitness

Arstechnica has a good feature article called Gaming your way into better shape. The writer tried DDR, Yourself!Fitness, EyeToy!Kinetic, and Wii.
I knew I wanted to try Dance Dance Revolution; it's the game that gave me this unholy idea in the first place. I've played the game before and knew that I wanted the newest version with an official Konami pad. One copy of Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 with a pad, $60—check. I'll treat myself to a nice aftermarket pad if I stick with it.

For the second game I decided on Yourself!Fitness, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't take into account the fact that the girl on the cover was pretty hot. Our own Dr. Gitlin recommends it highly. It was hard to find: it seems to be out of print and none of my local stores had it used. I found it at for $40.

I wanted to stay away from anything too expensive and needing a lot of hardware, so specialized fitness equipment for consoles is out. At that point you might as well join a gym for the cost. But this does need to be fun, so for my third game I decided on EyeToy Kinetic, a Nike-endorsed fitness game that uses the EyeToy to put your image into the game and uses your own movements to interact with the images on the screen.
Total price: $150 for three games and two pieces of hardware.
By the end, the Fearless Writer lost about 20 pounds from DDR and Yourself!Fitness. He had trouble getting Kinetic to work reliably and didn't find Wii sufficiently intense to be interesting. Read the whole thing.

In the comments, I found, a daily log of yet another blogger's attempt to lose weight with DDR.

Share this:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Wii Workout

The protocol is: play Wii 30 minutes a day for 30 days. this guy seems to have been first to complete. Here's a nice time-lapse sampling the movement that produced quite a nice end result:

Tom Coffee is also doing the Wii Workout with amusing commentary at his site Spilling Coffee. He's lost 10 pounds in the first two weeks. Tom's doing an interesting variation: he plays Wii using wrist weights to increase the workout. That seems like a high injury risk but it would depend on the game and how hard you're playing it.

As for me: I'm no longer wearing a sling and my shoulder is "stable", but I don't yet have full range of motion so I can't get in on the action. Also, I still have no Wii. But give me a few more weeks of healing and then I'll see about doing some Wiihabilitation...

Share this:

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Scale Walls Like a Videogame Character

If the Prince of Persia competed on Japanese game shows, this is what it would look like...

Share this:

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Shangri-la Diet on CBC

This news video does a nice job summarizing Seth Robert's Shangri-La Diet:

Share this:

Friday, January 05, 2007

Call me "Lefty!"

So: why no recent posts?

One month ago today, on my way to a firespinning rehearsal at the Palace of Fine Arts, I tripped and fell. I had been running and a little overloaded - carrying a big can of fuel in my right hand and a bucket of poi materials in my left, which somehow caused me to land without much ability to successfully block or deflect the impact. Landing badly, I bumped my head and broke my collarbone. Officially, I have a "closed, displaced, mid-clavicular fracture".

Another firespinner took me to the nearest emergency room he could find, the Kaiser on Geary, a land where everyone is competent and friendly and even the ER doctors are adorable. (I should break bones more often!)

I am currently wearing an immobilization splint that keeps my right arm pinned to my side. I'm supposed to move that arm as little as possible for about 6 weeks to let it heal. Took the first couple weeks off work, mostly staying at home watching DVDs, napping, taking pills for pain and inflammation.

Surprisingly difficult tasks with minimal use of the dominant arm:
  • Tying shoes. (trick: give up and buy shoes that don't lace.)
  • Putting on a belt. (trick: put the belt on the pants first, then put on the pants.
  • Putting on pants. (wear something loose and avoid button-fly)
  • Changing a shirt and reassembling the sling with no shoulder movement.
  • Eating! (I can now use chopsticks with my left hand! Almost!)
  • Blogging!
  • Sleeping!
Since I cannot tie my shoes while wearing them, I bought some fine italian loafers. To avoid overloading the other shoulder on small errands, I bought a folding shopping cart from The Container Store. In some ways it's actually been fun - figuring out from first principles how to accomplish basic tasks in unfamiliar ways. Like a baby learning to walk, I can take pride in accomplishments that in any other context would seem trivial.

The firespinning show went on without me - I watched from the sidelines. (there'll be another in the spring.) This will have been 6 weeks (minimum!) in which I don't spin and don't play guitar and do very little exercise. Even reading isn't very comfortable. Watching Netflix disks from the couch is about my speed - get comfy and sit perfectly still for hours, patiently letting the bones heal. (The first season of "24" is excellent.) Napping is good, too.

I miss playing guitar. I miss social interaction. I miss spinning. I'll have a lot of catching up to do once I heal. But all things considered, I'm not doing too badly.

Blogging will likely remain infrequent. For a while.

(cross-posted to

Share this: