Exergaming and Instrumented Measures of Fitness

The Economist had a short article titled Let’s Get Physical on “exergaming” — gaming that combines play with exercise. At the same time, Fabien wrote a thought-provoking blog post on the Nokia Sports Tracker and Tracing Personal Mobility. This stuff got me thinking about these weak-signals around exercise, play, gaming, fitness. I wrote a little comment on Fabien’s blog about the different ways to turn sport into electronic gaming and play in some fashion, or the challenges around that. Much work is associated with GPS or pedometers and that sort of thing, or stats-based stuff.

I wonder how far beyond the more or less obvious solutions like GPS and pedometers we can go? And then what beyond the usual stats cards and graphs?

I think that the instrumented approach to measuring activity like this is quite compelling to many fitness enthusiasts. Knowing the numbers and tracking progress through spreadsheets and graphs has its appeal for those who want to measure very detailed incremental increases in their fitness. I think that there is the possibility for re-calibrating what gets to count as “fitness” so that it has a less instrumental meaning. So, rather than fitness measured as how far you can run in what amount of time, fitness could be shaped around less self-centered characteristics, such as how much CO2 your super hero avatar prevented from escaping into the atmosphere, or how many dinosaurs you saved by avoiding turning them into the fuel from their fossils. I only say this because, plainly, the GPS thing is wonky at best as you describe. In many cases it works perfectly fine — but in the off case that it does not work well, there’s a real issue in terms of user adoption or satisfaction. If you measure physical activity more “ambiently” or with less instrumentalized rigor (sum-of-squares acceleration versus meters moved), you can tap into much less expensive techniques. Also, there’s an exciting challenge there — can we redefine the culture of fitness, tie it into the booming electronic games business — all in the service of elevating ecoawareness? It’d be like crossing the streams in Ghost Busters!

Technorati Tags: , ,