Nintendo Wii could become a bike trainer

One developer believes a simple, cheap, retrofit is possible

Video games are blamed as a component of the rising obesity levels of children and teens in the US. In response some game developers have created “exercise” games that take advantage of the motion control feature offered by the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Kinect for the Xbox 360, and Sony’s Move for the PlayStation3. And one game developer believes in the prospect of a cycling video game.

Dr. Werner Schoeman, an avid cyclist, tells BikeRadar that he envisions a way to incorporate the Wii’s motion sensing technology with an exercise bike.  Schoeman believes there remains a significant market segment untapped in the cycling game genre, especially when it comes to providing a practical hardware interface that is accessible and affordable.

“Most cycle simulator games require you to buy the whole cycle, such as the typical cycle simulator games found in upmarket gyms,” Schoeman told BikeRadar, adding a substantial portion of the world’s population is housebound during the winter months and could benefit from exercise gaming. “The lack of proper exercise, mixed with the shorter daylight exposure contributes significantly to Seasonal Affective Disorder — a type of depression during winter. Also, we tend to eat more energy dense foods during the cold, increasing the need for exercise lest we pack on the pounds.”

Schoeman said that video games are a possible solution. One concept he is developing utilizes the motion sensing technology of the Wii — or other video game system — where a small infrared LED could be attached to the pedal of a spin bike or even a standard bicycle on a trainer.

This could interact quite easily and effectively with the motion sensor and in turn make a game out of indoor riding. As a game it could make a more compelling experience than just spinning and watching TV. “A crucial component of exercise is the right mindset,” he added. “For the far majority of us, the mindset is heavily influenced during exercise by positive reinforcement. That's why people pay lots of money for trainers to tell them ‘you’re doing great.’”

He also said that people don’t, generally, want to peddle to nowhere, noting that the visual input is a very important component and that his game concept adds this. A cycling game seems in line with the evolution of fitness games utilizing motion control, he said. It’s a genera that began with Dr. Mitohiko Miyachi, a doctor at the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan, and his role helping Nintendo to develop the Wii Fit, and it’s ready to evolve.

Schoeman suggests the system could be adapted to fit an existing indoor bike or even a rider's own bike fitted to a trainer

Recent medical research done at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque has shown that those using indoor cycles tend to exercise longer and more intensely with video assistance. “We probably cycle more intensely because we enjoy it more,” said Schoeman. “It definitely beats just staring at the wall or some infomercial on TV.”

Schoeman is currently contacting software developers, and he isn’t limiting his options to just the Nintendo Wii. The success of the game system, which was released in the fall of 2006, spurred both Microsoft and Sony both to add motion control to their respective Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems.

Schoeman even notes the advantages these systems offer over the less complex Wii, and believes that computers may offer even more benefits. Of course there are already a number of interactive cycling applications available for the PC, but most require additional hardware that drives the cost up.

“The PC definitely offers more variety with regard to parameter input, but the problem is you’d have to buy all of the separate hardware interface modules,” Schoeman told BikeRadar. “If this thing is going to work, it needs to be cheap. People don’t want to buy a whole new bike or a lot of additional equipment. They want to buy a game title where everything is included. The console gaming platforms have a huge advantage in that all the sensors are already included.”

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