Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
Just recently, I got a chance to see the new Xbox 360 Kinect in action. This neat new technology seems to be the solution that I've been looking for in video games. No longer is it just sitting around and figuring out a bunch of finger gyrations to make the game go. Instead, Kinect is a full body experience. You stand up and move about to make you avatar move. This truly sounded like a healthier way to encouraging both kids and adults to get active.
And the game did not disappoint. What impressed me even more was when I got to play Dance Central. The dancing game is a vast improvement to other dance gaming where you just play Twister on an electronic mat. If you really put in effort, the moves you learn were fairly solid dance moves. The system monitors your body's movements and will highlight areas of the body which are out of synch. Granted, you can cheat the system to some degree as it only picks up on particular points to represent the overall body; but overall the essence of dancing is really there.
This got me excited to see what else was out there, especially if there was a Martial Arts based game. I mean, can you imagine being able to do a Martial Arts move through a system like this and find out immediately if you're doing it right? It reminded me of Star Trek and the holo-decks.
While researching this, I found two games which are currently available that might fit the bill: Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Fighters Uncaged.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is a full-body program intended to cover several aspects of fitness, particularly cardio fitness. Within their program, you can take what they call "Zen" yoga/tai chi and kickboxing classes. The routines are short and not terribly strenuous. The system attempts to monitor your full body and provide some hints as to where you might be misaligned.
Unfortunately, I don't believe the camera is adapted enough to truly pick up on critical alignment issues. While watching a friend perform their tai chi segments, I noticed a lot of moments where she was in danger of moving in a fashion that would hurt her but the system registered it as being on target. Her knees were constantly going in the wrong directions. Her foot positions could have easily ended up with a twisted ankle. And her posture was way off.
While not perfect, this program would be useful if it were coupled with an actual instructor who could correct some of these finer nuisances. If somehow you could record what was being done through the Xbox and send it on for critique by a real instructor, it might have proven to be more useful.
Furthermore, just like in the dance game, you could easily cheat the system by simply having a "point" of your body in the right position at the right moment.
Still, the intent is good of the program. And if someone were to truly want to get fit, this might be a less intimidating environment than actually going into a gym or more public area. You do receive a decent cardio workout and a sense of accomplishment as you progress through the different lessons and levels of intensity. Plus, having the feature that details changes in your body shape, weight, and calories burned is nice to give people goals.