To the clink of champagne glasses, Kettler launched a new interactive training software system that interacts with its equipment to create a realistic albeit virtual workout world.
The system, developed in partnership with the German company Magic Maps (www.magicmaps.de), debuted at the ispo sporting goods show in Munich, Germany, Feb. 2, in tandem with the company's public celebration of its 60th anniversary.
When it is released in August 2009, the system will offer between 10 and 30 virtual training locations available for users to ride, run or walk. So realistic are the views, one editor at the debut asked how they went about getting the footage or if they worked with Google maps for satellite images.
The tours available will include major cities such as Tokyo, London and San Francisco and allow users to get on their bike or treadmill and start working out on those cities' streets and parks. Plus, users can use a GPS to create their own route on their favorite trails or paths at home, which they will also be able to upload to a website to share with others. In those cases, the image may not be what they would see, but the hills, effort and turns would be replicated, said Christian Langa, Kettler product manager.
"The number of routes is unlimited," Langa said. "In principle, you can do any route that you can track on a GPS."
The image on the screen will show streets, bridges, trails, trees and other realistic but virtual scenes and automatically change resistance based on how the landscape changes. For example, when the rider at the demonstration started across a bridge, viewers could watch the data on the screen indicate resistance was going up as he rode "uphill" and then go down as he rode "downhill" on the other side. In tandem, speed and other indicators such as watts and mileage changed.
"It's a virtual world," said Langa. "You don't just have to stare at a wall."
Gerhard Loercher of Magic Maps said the two had talked about this kind of program for a number of years but only recently decided to tackle the details of the development and the partnership. Kettler (www.kettler.de) will have an exclusive arrangement for an undisclosed period, he said.
Assuming an exerciser has one of 10 pieces of Kettler equipment with a port to plug into their computer (and assuming the person has a TV screen as well as a DSL connection), the only thing needed is the software package. That will go for EUR 200. No U.S. price as yet was available, but Kettler representatives said the system should also come to the United States market this year since this was the global debut.
"Kettler Germany is ready," a Kettler spokesman said. "It can go everywhere."
SNEWS® View: Training programs and virtual worlds have, of course, been debuted and are available in some shape or form. Dating ourselves, we can think back to the old Tectrix V-Bikes from the early '90s that were phenomenal for their time -- but expensive, heavy and big with images that seemed a bit comical. This system looks so realistic you think you are in fact in a real world. At this point in the development of technology, it's a bit of a no-brainer and we know there is at least one somewhat similar product debuting at the IHRSA show in March 2009 -- albeit this one has required taping of real routes in real cities, adding an additional layer of complexity over virtual worlds and mapping technology. This kind of training world could in fact feel so much like a video game that adults will be drawn to the workout to experience the sensation. Perhaps further development on these lines can indeed attract more of America's inactive, unfit couch potatoes to a workout. Who wouldn't want to take a walking tour of Tokyo or London? A virtual tourist. Now that's a draw, we think.