A Nike+ Kinect Training (Demo) Review

I read a few reviews on this title over on LiveStrong by Beth Risdon, Susy Sedano, Marc Montemerlo – all personal trainers and so their feedback carries a lot of professional merit. I downloaded the demo onto my Xbox and finally managed to give it a try this week. As it was only the demo I could only do a sample workout, but it did also allow me to go through the fitness assessment which – for me – is a litmus test of how effective the system could be. Oh, and I’m a bit of a geek so an effective marriage of technology with real-world fitness training is something that I was looking forward to.

In general, I was not disappointed although the Kinect sensor didn’t help much as other reviewers have pointed out and needed some reconfiguration to ‘learn’ my workout environment. Here’s the breakdown from start-up to the end of the assessment.

Game On

Having already configured my Kinect for the free Kinect Adventures I didn’t bother updating the settings and launched straight into the title. I entered some basic details about myself – height and weight – and Alex introduced himself as my trainer. His dialogue was very natural and it felt like you were in the room with a real person.

I played with a quick 2 minute trial workout before doing the assessment just to get an idea of how things worked. It was a good intro and worked well, so I thought I’d give the assessment a go.

Getting Serious

You get a brief into from Alex and are asked to select from a choice of programs – Get Lean, Get Toned or Get Strong – which form the basis for your goals and determines the assessment tests he’ll put you through. I chose Get Toned which is a balance of cardio and strength. (In the full program you get a choice between male and female trainers).

The first assessment was to lie on my back and raise my legs vertically. For some reason the set-up cut off my feet and wouldn’t recognise things below my ankles. This meant that when I lie down it looked like I was sinking beneath water and the program decided I had left the play area and paused itself. After a bit of repositioning myself I got it to work but it still looked like I was half submerged. I tried reconfiguring the sensor but it still kept cutting my feet off. It may be because I have wood floors – the light and dark spaces in the sensor screen created a “glare” from the floor which obscured my feet, yet the rug behind me was darker, even in low light conditions.

Next Steps

After two more balance & shoulder rotation tests Alex took me into a plyometric reaction test – jumping into circles as they appeared. This was OK, although my space (which is not exactly small) meant I needed to jump onto the sofa to complete the test! My area is approx 2m wide and 3m deep from the TV after I move the furniture.

Then it was on to some real exercises – one-leg squats, push-ups and high knees. These all went well and showed that I have a definite imbalance on my right side. Alex put together a program based on my assessment that we would work through (if I had the full version of the program) over the coming weeks.

After only 12 minutes I actually felt quite tired. The squats and push-ups were performed “to failure” so he could assess your limits, and the high-knees were 3 sets or 30 second intervals as fast as you can go.

My Thoughts

Alex’s instructions were very clear and he constantly gave feedback if you were out of form with what he wanted you to do. This feedback was very natural as if you were standing there with a real person, though I can imagine the same phrases might become a little repetitive if you’re naturally imbalanced like I am (and I’m sure many people are).

The Kinect sensor had some issues with the space. This is inconvenient as it can mis-read your accurate movements due to the cut-off issues. 90% of the time it works well, but sometimes it’s annoying when your reprimanded by Alex when you know you did a good rep.

My play space is not exactly small either, but it still suffers from being restricted. Looking at the photos on LiveStrong by the other trainers, my space is comparable if not larger so I couldn’t really understand how you’d manage to complete all the exercises in a regular, everyday house in the UK. My advice is to really check this space aspect out before you dive into the title itself – it’s not a failing of the program, but of the requirements of the Kinect sensor.

I could see myself working with the Nike+ trainer over a period of time as an addition to my other activities. I already have a real personal trainer and a gym membership, plus they have real, heavy weights at the gym which I don’t have access to at home. Nike+ Kinect Training gives me the option of adding shorter, focused, guided workouts with real-world, natural feedback which will help improve form, stamina and reach the broad goals chosen in the initial assessment as well as augment my gym program. As long as I don’t get bored with moving the furniture every time I want to workout!

Pros

  • It feels natural and the trainer is supportive
  • It doesn’t feel like your in military school
  • The exercises are varied, including good use of the virtual world
  • It customises itself around your ability
  • It corrects you as you go with live feedback from the trainer
  • You can use voice commands as if you’re working with a real person

Cons

  • The Kinect tuner requires a lot of space
  • The Kinect tuner had trouble with my feet (I’m not the only one)
  • It became frustrating stop-starting when the program thought I had left the area

I am hoping the latter are all just hardware issues that are solved in the future through upgrades or new hardware releases. I’d hate to think that I need carpet just to use the system properly!


UPDATE: I have read a few posts which say that hardwood floors are an issue with the sensor. Something to do with infrared bounce (IR bounce) which explains the glare in the sensor configuration.

I saw a product called the CTA Digital Gaming Mat which suggests the ideal play area is 1.9m wide by 2.6m deep (with an effective play area of 1.4m at the rear of this depth). This fits my space, though it’s a tight fit so sensor adjustments are needed to fit properly and not an ideal way to kick off a training session. This mat also has mixed reviews, and I’d need something more workable – maybe just a roll-up rubber non-slip mat? Any recommendations?

Image Source: Be Fresh Fit