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Save us fat people! - Phil's Rambling Rants
December 7th, 2004
05:09 pm

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Save us fat people!
I was going to write this as a reply in a friend's journal, and then I decided it was worth writing in my own journal instead.

Most of us these days need to lose weight.  And the way for us to lose weight is to get more exercise.  And most of us don't get enough exercise because it's so hard to find a form of exercise that is a genuinely enjoyable way to spend time and doesn't require making a trip to some inconvenient location, which often takes more time than the actual exercise.  Many of us are also limited by the fact that the really fun forms of exercise, the things that we'd really push to fit into our days for the fun and not just because we need the exercise, require a level of skill and physical coordinatation that we lack.  Most high-entertainment-value exercises are sports involving other people, and to make them work, we need to find not just other people also interested in the same activity, but specifically other people who are at a similar level of competence at the sport so it can be worth their time and ours.  Of course, this is all old news, so why am I babbling about it?

Several years ago, I read a short story, author and title forgotten, which proposed a good solution to this problem.  A solution based on technology that was pretty much science fiction when I read it, but which would come a lot closer to being workable today; something that I think some geeks ought to get out and make happen, because we need it.  Basically, the technology was a full-immersion VR system, with tactile as well as visual and audio.  I don't remember the exact details of the setup in the story, but it centered on a suit that allowed vigorous physical activity and moderately violent interaction with the VR environment.  You could run and jump, you could throw things, you could fight.  It was combined with software that made you a virtual caveman, and to survive and prosper as a virtual caveman you had to do hard physical activity.  The two keys were that the VR system was smart enough, and individualized enough, that the effective performance of your avatar was based on how good your effort was compared to what you were capable of, and the hardware was something that ordinary people could afford to have in their homes.

The story was about the effect on social interactions when multiple people were able to play in the same VR universe -- an aspect which would certainly help in making it worthwhile.

But think of it:  If we could participate in a MMORPG from the privacy of our homes where we got a vigorous, individualized workout from the computer instead of just sitting on our butts while we did it, how many of us overweight geeks would be able to maintain that all-too-familiar geek physique?  And between the people willing to pay good money for a good game experience and the people willing to pay good money for a good exercise program, I think there's boatloads of money to be made in the bargain.

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From:alymid
Date:December 7th, 2004 03:12 pm (UTC)
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In some ways this is already starting - kids and adults playing Dance Dance revolution which is a dance based video game, sort of similar to simon says. It requires quite a bit of aerobic activity. OTOH I think that many reasons that people enjoy the MMORPGs is that the success *isn't* linked to ones physical prowess, except in fine motor co-ordination.

But I don't disagree, I think that would be bitchin' fun...
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From:tigertoy
Date:December 7th, 2004 03:37 pm (UTC)
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The reason it would work, as I envision it, is that success in the RPG would NOT be linked to one's physical prowess. The system is trained to know what you can do, and demans that you put out a real effort *compared to your own ability*, but does not demand that you do well by an objective standard -- which most of us would be unable to do.
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From:pir_anha
Date:December 7th, 2004 03:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Save us fat people!

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it would so rock, even though my prime motivation wouldn't be to lose weight (which i think is a toxic message the way it's being delivered by the US beauty and related industries). i would definitely like to be in better shape though, whether or not that came with weight loss.

DDR is making some small inroads into the gaming population, but that's for the limited target audience who actually likes to dance.

yeah, it'd be cool to have an RPG or adventure story with lots of physical VR. hey, even if a fun platformer (oddworld-style comes to mind). with or without other people -- i think i'd probably prefer without for the most part, but indeed, others might like it better if it's also got social aspects.
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From:catalana
Date:December 7th, 2004 04:20 pm (UTC)
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I think I'm a freak - I'd way rather be able to exercise all by myself. *grin* If my joints and back were better, I'd dance my way to better health (ballet or modern, probably). Sadly, they aren't.
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From:tigertoy
Date:December 7th, 2004 06:31 pm (UTC)
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As best I remember the story, people already had the system in their homes based on the idea that they'd use them to exercise by themselves (interacting with private virtual worlds). And that would be enough to keep some people, maybe even many people, actively exercising, but the point of the story was for the virtual environment to become a shared experience, and how that would make it a central part of people's lives.
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From:billroper
Date:December 7th, 2004 08:36 pm (UTC)
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Maybe a Makoto machine in the basement would help.

That was a ludicrous amount of exercise, as I recall.
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From:tigertoy
Date:December 8th, 2004 09:37 am (UTC)
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But the Makoto machine, though entertaining, is limited to just one simple game. I think most people would get bored with it within a month if they had one in their basement. A good VR environment has much more to get and hold people's interest, and in this case, the goal is to addict hopefully everyone who tries it.

Are Makoto machines being made and sold commercially?
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From:billroper
Date:December 8th, 2004 10:21 am (UTC)
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Apparently.

Looks like about $5000 for the base machine.
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