Ever since the Atari, game manufacturers have been trying to find new ways to get players healthy while keeping the games entertaining. Exercise in video games is nothing new, and the Lifecycle is just the latest in a long history of these sorts of projects.

(This is a rather informal history that I'm basing purely on what I can remember, so if I've missed anything, please email me and I'll update the post. :) )

The Puffer Project was the first try at bringing exercise into video games. In 1982, Atari started research on an exercise bike that could be used to control the Atari 5200 system. After developing a few different versions for both medical and home use, the project went under due to the massive video game market fallout of 1983, never to be seen again.

5 years later, the advent of the Nintendo Power Pad brought in many new exercise games, including Super Team Games and Dance Aerobics. The Power Pad seems to die off pretty quickly after introduction, with few genre specific games being released for it after the initial period.

The late ninties saw the creation of Dance Dance Revolution from Konami. This game required players to step on arrows, with rhythm provided by music in the game. Later incarnations and many, many knockoffs of the original game saw harder songs, arrows in different places, and other new features. Home versions of the game came with calorie counting options so that health concious users could track their performance while playing.

To a lesser extent, arcade games like MoCap Boxing and Para Para Paradise (Please note: Playing Para Para Paradise correctly results in a minimum of exercise. Playing Para Para Paradise like a fat, white, geeky American will cause buckets of sweat) could also be called exercise games.

The NeoRacer is a set of pedals that could be set up anywhere and hooked to a computer or playstation in order to control video games, much like the LifeCycle project.

The Eloton SimCycle was the same idea in a nicer design, but the company no longer seems to exist.

Both the SimCycle and Neoracer are still available to buy. They will run at least US$200+.

In 2004, ResponDesign released Yourself!Fitness, a modern version of Dance Aerobics (minus the specialized control system). This software allowed users to follow workout routines and get nutritional information through the machine they usually used for physically passive entertainment (unless you consider throwing the controls across the room after playing Ninja Gaiden exercise).

Currently, there are two projects making video game news, the FPGameRunner, and the NexFit Exercise bike.

The FPGameRunner is a manual control treadmill that translates walking speed into motion in a first person shooter. Aiming, strafing, and directional control are handled through a handlebar type setup. Made specifically for FPSes, it allows users to run through the levels instead of just using a mouse and keyboard.

(As an aside, if they put some sort of weight or impact sensor in this to detect jumping, it could be the most awesomest Super Mario Bros controller EVER.)

The NexFit, somewhat like the Puffer Project, provides a full exercise bike setup for the user. It allows users to control any game on the PS2 or Xbox. It has a lightweight aluminum frame, features full force feedback, and comes with health management software to track progress.

It costs $2500.

Motorcycle Game Controls from Honda

Honda has released a control setup specifically for motorcycle gaming. With a seat resembling one you'd normally seeon the vehicle, and a realistic handbar setup, motorcycle racers and paper boys (this thing just screams for pedals to turn it into a BMX sim. :) ) alike can now immerse themselves in computer racing simulations.

Wish we could get one of these for the LifeCycle Project.

Via Engadget

There's probably a time in every builder's life when they come upon a realization, they're going to run out of prims.

For those not familiar, the basic building blocks in the Second Life world are known as Primitives, or Prims, for short. These come in different shapes (cubes, spheres, cylinders, torii, etc...), and have operations such as texturing, resizing, streching, twisting, and many others, enabling builders to turn them into whatever might be needed.

Each piece of land in Second Life has a certain number of prims attributed to it, roughly 7 prims per 16m^2 of land. Buildings on an apportioned piece of land are limited to the prim count available to the owner.

At the Nonpolynomial Labs SL site, we have 2048m^2 of land, giving us 447 prims to build with. As of earlier this weekend, my prim count stood at 64. This is with a minimum of exhibits, and nothing in the shop. Most of this was taken up by the lounge, or by parts of the building that simply wern't being used.

During the first build of the Nonpolynomial Labs building, the floor structure was a 3x4 grid of 10mx9.3m prims, giving me 3348m^2 of floor space to fill. That is a MASSIVE amount of space, and when combined with the fairly small prim count of the parcel, meant that I was basically going to be stuck with an empty warehouse.

Semi-decent photo of the first NP Labs build

A few weeks later, realizing I'd blown a full 4th of my prims on the building structure alone, I cut off the back 4th of the building. This left me with 2511m^2 to fill. Still a LOT of room, considering I had nothing to sell, and very few museum exhibits to show.

At this point, I started filling up the 3rd floor, which turned into a lounge/club. Due to needing a seating arrangement and a dancefloor, it was fairly easy to fill this up. However, the bottom floors were still absolutely desolate. By taking out 2 of the center panels on the 2nd floor and putting in railing, I created a nice, open feeling between the shop and museum floors, but there was still no way I was going to fill them. On top of that, I was standing at that 64 prim count, meaning I had very few prims left to create the meat of the content in the building.

Then, this weekend, I came upon a realization. In this world, there's no physics unless you tell it there is. So, why build a box with a ton of wasted space when I could simply reduce the floor plans accordingly on each floor while still having a sleek, accomidating design? Out of that was born the inverse stairstep design that is now seen in the lab.

Side view of the lab, via SLPics

I now reduced the floor space by half, with the shop having the smallest floorspace. Vendors aren't that big, and I'm not really interested in selling a lot of different things nayways). The museum has the second most.floorspace, which is fine since exhibits are made in containers that are fairly small and line up easily. The lounge, having already been built, kept all of its floorspace without having to be changed.

Now, not only had I reduced the number of prims, I had an interesting design that wasn't just your normal box of a building. This led me to think of other ideas of reduce prim count.

In SL, there is no weather (yet), nor is there any real way to shoplift. So, why have windows?

Picture of the Front of the new NP Labs Build, via SLPics

Removing the windows allows for free flying access to all floors without people being confused as to whether or not they are phantomed (meaning there is no collision generated between the prim and other objects). The windows on the bottom floor stayed because they created a nice effect with the doorway and logos on the front of the building.

After all this work, I'd pushed myself back above 100 prims, meaning I'd have a ton of prims left over for whatever I might need to do later. The building looked great, but for some reason, it just didn't feel right without a support structure of some kind in the back. The urge to link the whole building, put something heavy on the part of the 3rd floor with no support, set the whole thing physical and watch it fall on its side was just to great. To remedy this, I made a completely unneeded support structure.

Support Structure for NP Labs build

Pretty, curvy, and completely unfeasable physically, but since I have control of the physics, who cares? It makes the building touch the ground more than it did without it, and the effect produced by looking through the front of the building from the plot across the street is absolutely stunning.

So, I learned something valuable out of all this. In a world where you don't need windows, putting them in because it just feels right isn't always right. Adapting to the standards of a new situation allows you to budget in new ways, while hopefully making others realize what you just did.

And lord knows, there's a ton of people out there who want a world without Windows.

LifeCycle: First Life Locomotion in Second Life

Second Life can be an incredibly immersive world, seeing that it is based solely on user created content. However, there is only so much immersion that can happen through a keyboard/mouse control scheme. There are many different ways to control vehicles in real life, such as steering wheels, pedals, handle bars, and sticks, just to name a few. Implementing these control structures in Second Life allows users to get closer to the virtual world by giving them mechanisms they are familiar with in the real world.

Biking is the first of these controls we have decided to implement, because it is so ubiquitous. The bicycle is used around the world for cheap, self-powered transportation, and has embedded itself into many interesting contextual situations. Romantic ideas such as biking through the park or using paddle boats, the thrill of the Tour De France, the metaphor of training wheels, are all based on bicycles. Using the LifeCycle, users will now be able to move themselves from place to place in the Second Life world using a stationary exercise bike.

Sports training equipment using haptic feedback

A new sports training device has been developed that uses haptic feedback for communication of movement and adjustment. Instead of using touch to signify where an athlete should move or bend, it allows coaches and trainers to remotely contact them while they are performing. This enhances the ability of trainers to communicate easily and athletes to understand what needs happen to improve performance.

via We Make Money Not Art