H&F Biz show '05: Exergaming and infotainment

While the Health & Fitness Business show remains grounded in a world of steel, iron and traditional workout equipment, there exists a number of devout companies that are working to augment routine and tradition with games and programs designed to make exercise fun by taking the mind off steel and sweat and into a world of virtual reality or mental and competitive challenges.

While the Health & Fitness Business show remains grounded in a world of steel, iron and traditional workout equipment, there exists a number of devout companies that are working to augment routine and tradition with games and programs designed to make exercise fun by taking the mind off steel and sweat and into a world of virtual reality or mental and competitive challenges.

Noticeably absent from the trade show floor this year was Cateye, although a few of the company's staff were spotted wandering around. Company representatives told us that while they had wanted to be here as an exhibitor, it was simply not possible to be in two places nearly at once: So the company had chosen to attend the Can-Fit Pro trade show in Canada.

Still, not all were absent. The gong-like tones of the Makoto towers being challenged by yet another player echoed across the hall, and a few other newcomers gave show attendees enough of a taste from the world of gaming-cum-exercise that no one should have left hungry. For a full meal look at that category, be sure to read our GearTrends® Fitness magazine story on Exergaming and its future by going to: www.geartrends.com/magazines

Makoto plays on and brings in a coach from the Denver Broncos
Although Makoto is preparing to bring out a less expensive retail- and home-focused version of the company's institutional workhorse, the company wasn't quite ready to show the new equipment yet as it fine-tunes construction to maintain its durability in a scaled-down version. But that didn't stop the company from pulling out a few new tricks to promote its three-tower workout. On Friday, Rich Tuten, strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Broncos and a Makoto devotee, was on-hand. The South-African-born Tuten told SNEWS® that he loves using the Makoto as part of the workout regimen for his team because, "It helps improve our players' reaction time and mental focus. What really makes Makoto so effective though is that the players see it more as a game and as a result, they actually look forward to Makoto training."

"A pro basketball team plays 82 games during the season and so much of what we do as coaches is try to find unique ways to help the players stay in shape and injury-free," added Tuten. "There are so many ways I can incorporate exercises and drills into the Makoto towers, including adding bands to increase resistance, using a ball to add coordination…it all depends on the goals." In addition, a world junior karate champion was there to kick and twirl for nearly three days straight, impressing even the casual passer-by. http://www.makoto-usa.com

FitCentric adding an "add-on" twist to gaming add-ons
FitCentric, a company that has been designing and promoting the addition of virtual reality to the workout experience since 1995, launched a new product at Health & Fitness Biz, NetAthlon 2.0, which had a number of retailers telling SNEWS® that the company might really be on to something. No, it is not necessarily a new idea – adding the capability of an exercise bike or treadmill to play games – but it is a new approach (the product can be retrofitted onto any exercise bike, rowing machine, stepper, climber, and or treadmill) at a great price (suggested retail, $169). The NetAthlon package includes a USB wireless device that plugs into any computer, a wireless transmitter that attaches to the exercise machine, computer software, and three games/courses. Founder and CEO Kenneth Burres, M.D. (yes, he's a medical doctor in real life) told SNEWS® that once a consumer buys the basic software package, it is very easy to add more courses and games from a growing library.

In addition, the software allows users to schedule online web races against other competitors, anywhere in the world – imagine a healthier version of that bar-and-drinking trivia game that pits teams in various bars around the world against each other. Accessories include a heart rate strap that displays data on the computer screen during the workout. Although it wasn't ready for us to view at the tradeshow, Burres told SNEWS® that the company will also have a steering accessory to allow those on exercise bikes to be able to steer through courses. http://www.fitcentric.com

Pulse: Wireless infotainment powered by the user, plus a VR design
Pulse WiFi (aka Smooth and Evo Fitness) was on the floor touting itself as "the only fitness equipment company that offers you a truly wireless system where both the equipment and entertainment system are powered by the user." Although more of a commercial system, each treadmill, bike, stepper and elliptical features a TFT screen that is self-powered – meaning as the user pedals, steps and sweats, the unit feeds power to the screen and the wireless system. No problem if you're going really really slow; you can adjust the tempo needed to get the system going. The screen is set up to receive a wireless signal that will display cable TV or satellite channels, audio and DVD via a wireless signal. http://www.pulsewifi.com

The beauty of this system, according to Alter, is that it means a club is not dependent on running power to its fitness equipment, and can move it and use it anywhere it desires – on a set cardio floor, in rows or not, in separate alcoves or rooms -- dependent only on the ability to receive the wireless signal fed from a central location. Alter said it can reach 100 yards. The extra money for the system, he said, is actually offset by saving in labor costs, electrical bills and space.

The system is a sub-set of Pulse Fitness equipment out of the United Kingdom (www.pulsefitness.com). Alter's Smooth Fitness company is the North American partner for Pulse, which already serves some 75 clubs in a number of countries. Another rather-entertaining product – although more entertaining for the club owner! – is the company's CAD 3D virtual reality renderings of clubs, including those that don't even exist or ones that are remodeling. From an aerial fly-over to inside panning, the system shows amazing detail and can even place the customer, e.g. an owner in the club in the presentation, which gives an owner a great way to better see how equipment will be placed.

(Several weeks of show coverage began Aug. 29, so don't miss out of any of the product, event and trends reports.. Look for more in the next couple of weeks too as SNEWS® continues the best and most detailed show coverage -- you won't find more complete or more accurate reports anywhere else. To come are reports on cardiovascular equipment, accessories, yoga/Pilates, the GearTrends® Forum and panel discussion, and other news and entertaining bits heard around the floor.)


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