Strange peripherals… Commodore fitness

Move over Wii Fit, Microsoft Kinect and all the other consoles claiming to have revolutionized gaming by introducing the physical interaction with games.
All this has been done before… 25 years ago on the Commodore 64!

Around 1987 the company Bodylog introduced new hardware for the C64 consisting of 3 main components: a stress reducer, a fitness manager and a muscle trainer.
All of these components functioned around the principle that different situations (stress, physical strain, …) all have different effects on the human body that can in some way be measured, like heart rate, sweaty palms etc.
A set of sensors would measure these effects and feed the information back to a computer, to create some form of interaction with a tailor-made program.

The first of the 3 systems, the stress reducer, aims to enhance the user’s concentration and reduce stress.  It consists of a cartridge that you could put into the expansion port of the C64, a temperature sensor and an extension cord for the sensor.
Next to that, you got an interesting book detailing the theory behind stress and how stress is perceived on the body, like temperature fluctuations and it provides some fun concentration and stress reducing exercises.
Enough theory, how does the module actually function on the C64?   After start-up, the user is greeted with the game “Piece of Mind”.  Goal of the game is to reach a castle, enter it, and claim the treasure that is hidden inside.  The game is played by attaching the temperature sensor to your finger and your character moves depending on your body temperature (so no joysticks or paddles come into play).  The more relaxed you are, the higher your body temperature, the faster your character moves.  When you’re nervous, your body temperature drops, and your character slows down and can even start to move backwards when you’re really stressed =)
With the relaxation exercises from the accompanying book, you’ll learn to stabilize your temperature and hence your relaxation state and get your character moving faster into the castle.

The second system focuses on controlling your heart rate.  For this, you get a clip that you can attach to your ear (as demonstrated by the lovely lady in the picture above – sporting an outfit straight out of that classic 80’s series “Fame”).  The built-in sensor will then start to measure your heart rate, which will be key in the game “Ride for your life”.   The game starts of by asking you some vital statistics like sex, age and weight.  Once entered, the game starts.  You can choose to ride your home trainer, rowing machine, do some push-ups etc.  The game using the sensor will then determine whether you can increase your physical exercise or take it a bit slower.

The 3rd system, features a controller that looks like it’s something Arnold Schwarzenegger has lying around his house.  It’s a muscle trainer that plugs into the joystick port and basically acts as the controller for the game “Harry Helio”.  Goal of the game is to fly your little helicopter over a series of obstacles by pressing the muscle trainer.  The more you squeeze it, the higher Harry flies.

Pricewise, you we’re looking at (calculated in today’s Euro) at 100 Euro for the stress reduces, 85 Euro for the fitness coach and roughly 65 Euro for the muscle trainer (software and hardware included in all packages).

So, it all might look a bit more old-fashioned than your Wii Fit, it’s still the true pioneer of physical interaction with your computer games.

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