Fitness and Technology

This semester I had the opportunity to participate in Big Screens which is a course that uses the IAC building’s 12ft tall and 120ft wide LED screen to create site specific video, performance or other screen based interaction. The final showcase will be open to public on November 30th. My team is working on a live performance about a future fitness training.

We are in the process of creating a running VR experiecne where our performer Jake runs on a treadmill in the physical space while his point of view is projected onto the screen. Jake begins the game navigating the virtual space himself. Shortly after, an identical version of him appears, walks in front of him, turns around to look at him and then resumes walking. Jake speeds up to bypass the copy and become the first one again. Sounds of people running slowly amplifies which alerts Jake to turn around to realize that there are multiple copies of him running towards him. Jake begins running without questioning the reason why all the copies are running. As Jake and the copies run through different architectural spaces, the competition becomes more intense. Aggression becomes apparent when the act of pushing each other increases. Jake goes through different level of exhaustion. The audience can see from his point of view that he is sometime in front yet other times falling behind. It is only until the very end of the game that the trophy of the competition is a pair of golden boxer. Once Jake is aware the trophy, he aggressively pushes all copies away and runs in the fastest speed possible to score the golden boxer.

It is really interesting reading about “Designing Sports: A Framework for Exertion Games” as it provides a lot of informative studies that we touched on when ideating our project without much reference to the design pathway used in professional exertion gaming industry. The article allows me to reconsider several important aspects of our project and contemplate solutions for relevant questions.

Relating the topic of awareness of exertion applied on “Jogging over a Distance”, my first challenge is to make sense of why we are designing a VR running experience. As someone who absolutely dislike running but still runs fairly often to be in shape, I need to listen to music as a distraction from my routine. The study points out that “design can focus on distractions such as playing music, supporting anti-awareness that dissociates the user from the discomfort that comes with strenuous physical activity”. With possibilities that emerging technology permit, I thought that my running routine can be further enhanced if I am “physically” in another space, perhaps a jungle or the galaxy, that is more exciting than looking at a mirror reflection of myself on a treadmill in a conventional gym. I suppose that combining visual and audio stimulations can form a very powerful motivation.

The second challenge is to speculate why someone is willing to continue to run and go beyond their limits in our VR experience. I believe that juxtaposing uncertainty with competition can increase our drive to run. If I were Jake in the game, I would run initially due to the fear of being left behind. The fear of uncertainty is so great that it will force me to continue the game. In the meantime, I am also competing against multiples of myself which enhances my will to win. As outrageous as the trophy is, I think there is nothing comparable to losing to yourself hence I would still go beyond my physical limits to compete.

The third challenge is to explain why Jake is running naked both on and off screen. This challenge is not necessarily relevant to the article yet pivots around the topic of discomfort with nudity. It is an important question that I haven’t yet resolved. My defense for now is that I am free from social norms when I am at home alone hence I can feel safe and comfortable when revealing my body. However, I am not completely satisfied with my answer yet and will require more research and contemplation.

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