Has new technology changed the way we exercise?

Jack Kotnik

This article was published in the Southerner spring news magazine.

“You! You are the controller!” says the promotional video on the web home-page for the Xbox Kinect, the latest break through in video game technology. Similar to the Wii, it uses a motion sensor to detect movement which affects character in the game.

The difference between Wii and Kinect is that the Wii requires you to have a remote at all times, where as the Kinect is based solely on body movements and voice commands.

Xbox Kinect offers games such as Kinect Sports, Dance Central, and Your Shape. Each game requires you to control the game with your body. It “gets you off the sofa and involved in the game,” says the Xbox website. Dubbed “fun that’s good for you” by Microsoft,  the question is, do games like Wii Fit and the new Kinect really help kids get more exercise, or are they just an excuse to stay inside and play video games?

Sophomore Audrey Franchett owns a Wii fit, but says she rarely ever uses it. She says she gets lots of exercise during the sports seasons, and goes jogging durring the off season. “I definitely don’t use [Wii Fit] for exercise.” She even said that her parents were the ones who bought it, and although they intended to use it, they rarely do.

“It will help [you stay active] but you need to do more then just the game,” says a reply on the Xbox website to the question “[has] Anyone lost weight or had fitness improved [using Kinect]?” After reading reviews of the Kinect, one gets the vibe that although the public seems to like it better than the Wii Fit, it does not seem to be any healthier than the WIi Fit is. But how healthy is that?

Although the ability of Kinect to actually be considered fitness is doubtful, there is one guaranteed effect. “It sure is a start to curbing the couch potato mentality adopted by so many of our kids” said Andrea walker of the Baltimore Sun.

“This will never replace physical exercise… Psychologically [or] Physically” said Sports medicine specialist Mark Klion, quoted in Arizona newspaper The Arizona Republic. “Throwing a ball virtually is not the same as throwing it outside in the grass,” he continued.

Playing Kinect endangers users of repetitive strange injuries- injuries caused by doing the same motion over and over again, where as outdoor exercise holdsthe benefit of fresh air, and vitamin D from the sun. “When you exercise outdoors, your mind becomes aware of the changing terrain. Whether you use the hills, the sand on a beach, or a winding path, your mind has to focus differently than it would on a flat gym floor,” or in other words, you exercise your mind as well, according to Tina Vindum, quoted on everydayhealth.com.

Although the Kinect seems not to hold much hope for gamers who would like to get enough exercise using their Xbox, Kinect may yet have a place in the medical world. A University of Washington student hacked the technology of his new Kinect, enabling it to perform surgery. The modified Kinect technology will assist in robotic-aided surgery, making difficult work for human hands more precise and reliable.