Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nike Kinect Training


So you're thinking.. what the hell is an article on Nike Kinect Training doing here amidst what has become pretty much an entirely Guild Wars 2 blog!  Well it's still a game, technically, and it's something I'm doing.  And as I've spent no small amount of time trying out various exercise games and programs, thought I'd write up some comments on why I've settled on this one.


First, make no mistake, I'm no fitness guru.  In fact, just the opposite.  I'm a 47 year old white male who leads a largely sedentary lifestyle.  I'm 6'4" tall, and weigh 225 lbs, and that puts me in the overweight category. Not hugely so, thank you very much, but still not ideal.  And like most everyone I know, from time to time I get fits of enthusiasm for getting into some sort of shape, and for me, the most direct route to do that is to adopt some sort of morning exercise program.

A Brief History of Exercise (Attempts)
Over the years, I've tried a number fitness games for both the Wii and the Xbox.  Here's a short list:

Wii Fit
NFL Training Camp (for Wii)
EA Sports Active 2 (for Wii)
Kinect Your Shape Fitness Evolved
Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout
and Nike Kinect Training

I know right?  It's like a mini hobby of mine.  My wife just rolls her eyes.  And the thing is, for all of these, I gave them serious consideration, with jaunts that lasted weeks at a time.

How I Evaluate
So when I'm using one of these things, there are really just two major considerations.  The first is Can I Tolerate the Workout Environment.  And that may seem a bit superficial, and I suppose it is, but for me it's important.  The setting that you workout in, the voice, style, and presentation of your coach and/or trainer, how you are presented in the program, and just the general style of the program.  One of the reason I quit Wii Fit was that it was just too cutesy, too coddling.  And NFL Training Camp, with being coached by NFL stars, and working out in NFL stadiums was, for me at least, awesome!

But the absolute main evaluating point is simply this: How well does it recognize your exercises.  More than anything else, this is the absolute override factor in whether or not I will use and continue to use these programs.  If the recognition is too generous, then you end up sitting on the floor drinking a beer while the program congratulates you on a Job Well Done and Way to Kill That Routine.  But worse by far is when the program fails to recognizes your repetitions.  Nothing will kill your drive and will to work out more than doing the exercise, but having the program fail to recognize that you've done it.  When you art struggling for the eighth push-up, and you do it, and that rep counter doesn't recognize it.. so you do it again.. and it's still saying "Keep your back straight" or whatever, or "Let's get started!" and you have started already, well it's quite likely a controller-throwing rage inducement moment.

The Has Beens
So before Nike Kinect Training came out, my favorite program was NFL Training Camp (for the Wii, not the Kinect).  It had a couple of great things going for it.  First, it came with the EA Sports Active sensors, which consist of a leg sensor and an arm sensor that you strapped on.  These did a decent enough job of recognizing your routines, and as a bonus, the arm sensor was also a heart rate monitor.  That, combined with the Wii Fit board meant that the program has a truly accurate representation of your weight and your heart rate, and thus calorie calculations where spot on.  But EA discontinued NFL Training Camp in 2009, and so now the teams, players, and stadiums are all dated.  Furthermore, even with the sensors, NFL Training Camp would often struggle with recognition.  It was worse with two players, but even with one, some routines it just simply couldn't read.

But I really wanted something that would work on the Kinect.  Unfortunately though, everything I tried, until Nike Kinect Training, just fell short.  With Biggest Loser, you had the double negative of the fact that you were playing something called Biggest Loser (never mind that the show is a hit.  I've never watched the show and have absolutely no interest in it), and the fact that your avatar in the game was a paunchy, scary looking person shaped in a realistic fashion (who exercises with these things and wants to actually see an overweight representation of themselves, regardless of how accurate it is?).  But I bought the program anyway, because in the demo it did a damn good job of recognizing my routines.  But once I got into the program, and as soon as you started doing routines on the floor, it would stop recognizing your activities - either giving completely false positives, or utterly failing to recognize successes. And at the time it came out, it probably had the best exercise recognition of the Kinect programs.

Nike Kinect Rules
And that's where Nike Kinect comes in.  Make no mistake - Nike Kinect Training has the best exercise recognition going for it on the Kinect right now.  It has lots of other stuff too.  It provides a nice variety of workout environments that aren't too clean and sterile (I'm looking at you Your Shape).  It lets you select a primary goal (strength, endurance, or weight loss), and then tailors a workout program based on that goal, and it doesn't ask you to pick your own exercises.  You just show up, and follow the trainer through your routine.  Which for me, is perfect.  But the absolute best thing, the thing that makes it a keeper, is that Kinect, after years of failures, finally delivers on it's promise.  And does so for just about every exercise it presents.  In three weeks of use, only one exercise, during one routine, did it fail to read what I thought it should read.  And the nice thing is that, for those cases when it isn't reading quite right, you can switch to a timed routine instead of a number of reps routine, so that you can still continue with the routine and get credit for it.

Now Nike Kinect isn't perfect.  For me, actually, the biggest detractor is that the trainers' models run right square into the uncanny valley, with too much of an attempt to model the real life professional trainers that they represent too accurately.  But the voice acting is excellent, and the way in which the trainers demo the exercises is spot on.  You get a nice variety of drills, with no fluff, presented in an appealing environment.

In short - If you can get past the uncanny valley trainers, Nike Kinect Trainer offers the absolute best exercise routine for the Kinect right now.  Or to wax a bit cliche..

Just Do It.