Canadian company Nexfit pulled what one company executive called "the Octane approach" by debuting its new line of exergaming bikes at a nearby Holiday Inn rather than on the floor of the Health & Fitness Business show. The obvious reference to Octane's debut several year's ago in the Holiday Inn (Octane exhibited this year on the show floor) was followed up quickly with an acknowledgement that next year the company fully expected to be on the show floor with an explanation that the company's decision to enter the United States came too late to make show plans.
SNEWSÂ®, along with a handful of retailers and other media in attendance, received personal invites to the Holiday Inn-based showroom to see first-hand what company materials and vice president of sales Geoffrey White called "a revolutionary approach to aerobic exercise in the fitness market."
Let's address the question of revolutionary: The Nexfit MOG ("Motion In Game") unit is a futuristically designed exercise bike that looks as much like it should be a sculpture in a museum of modern art as it should be a piece of exercise equipment (see photo to the right -- online story version only). That much is revolutionary.
The fact that the bike can be hooked up to a PC (desktop or laptop) via a USB cable for playing PC-based games, or to an Xbox or PlayStation via gaming cables, is certainly cool too, but by no means unique. As SNEWSÂ® recently pointed out in our coverage of the exergaming market, compatibility with computer-based games and gaming technology has been around for well over a decade. (See SNEWSÂ® story, Sept. 12, 2005,Â "H&F Biz show '05: Exergaming and infotainment." )
The handlebars of the MOG bike swivel left and right and also serve as the game control consol, featuring buttons for firing and performing other gaming functions. Again, cool, but not really revolutionary. In addition, the bike's pedals control the speed a user travels through a game, including traveling backward by, well, backpedaling.
What is really the truly revolutionary feature -- and appears to be what Nexfit is banking on -- is the bike's "Force Feedback" technology that is incorporated into the MOG. While testing the bike through the twists and turns of a driving course, our bike actually shook during a brief departure from the road and then shuddered and lurched as we sideswiped a tree and then spun out of control (OK, so we're not very good at playing video games). We were told that the bike would also simulate the feeling of going up or downhill, but frankly, our breakfast was about to come up so we gracefully fell off the saddle and took the company rep's word forÂ it.
Like other units and programs now on the market (FitCentric and Powergrid, for example), the Nexfit MOG can be networked for multiplayer competition â€“ either across the club floor, across the city, or across the country. Up to 42 players will be able to congregate in a virtual game room to face off, we were told.
Two bikes were on display, with suggested retails from $1,800 to $2,500, depending on features, which included heart rate monitoring among some added to the more advanced version. A stand to hold a computer screen will add $200 to the price.
SNEWSÂ® View: With current and planned appearances of the bike on TV shows such as CSI: Miami, 24, Biggest Loser 2, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and more, the Nexfit MOG is certainly getting amazing media exposure, but whether or not that will translate into sales when the bike runs more than $2,000 is anyone's guess. Several retailers we spoke with at H&F Biz who were fortunate enough to gain admission to Nexfit's private debut, told us that while the bike was one of the coolest-looking pieces of exercise equipment they had ever seen, it was still far too expensive to generate more than curious consumer interest in their stores. Now, about that reference to an Octane approach to product debutâ€¦ If someone wants to take advantage of the show and its attendees, but doesn't want to participate in the costs involved in receiving those benefits, then they should step back and think twice about becoming a parasite. And if you think others don't notice, think again. Octane has managed to have the tactic named after it, though that's not necessarily a recognition it was seeking.