With some exceptions, when you think "gamers" you don't generally think "paragons of health and fitness." But maybe you should. There are already a lot of fitness games on the market, and they range from good to horrible, but this collaboration between Nike and Microsoft is something else. It's something really good.
Nike+ Kinect Training basically puts a personal trainer in your living room. Not the most original concept, but what's novel is how well it works. Nike worked with Microsoft to revamp the Kinect's algorithms and make it way more accurate, and you can see it in your avatar. Little nuances don't seem to get lost, even when you're doing detailed floor work, or you're twisting like a pretzel.
You choose between two trainers and then pick your goal: Get Strong, Get Lean, or Get Toned. You input a few of your vital statistic, then you're guided through some diagnostic exercises designed to test your range of motion and overall fitness. From there it generates a personalised fitness program. You start with a fitness challenge, then every four week you repeat it to chart your progress. The game schedules your workout on a calendar based one when you're free, and if you miss one, it reshuffles things automatically. It's pretty slick. You can also do one-offs and quick 5-minute workouts.
I had a chance to run through a handful of the exercises a few weeks ago, and I was impressed. The exercise doesn't start until you're in the correct position. Hand out of place? It'll wait until you move it, and it will correct your form in during exercises as you go. It tracked me eerily well — even when I was on the floor I couldn't get away with anything. It was broken up into straight up exercises (squats) and mini-games (dodgeball). Some of them were very challenging (high knees + tightish jeans = no bueno).
I'm generally pretty unimpressed by social features in workout programs. You can post your workout on Facebook and have your friends cheer you on, but what kind of jerk actually does that? Or you can collect Nikefuel, which as far as I can tell is a grown-up version of Chuck E. Cheese tickets, except you don't cash them in for prizes, just bragging rights. Meh. What did impress me, though, was the two-way video chat while you're working out. Obviously, we were testing it in a controlled environment and over a good connection, but it worked extremely well. Having a workout buddy is actually a fantastic motivator, and with this, your buddy can be on the other side of the planet. Very cool.
To summarise: at first glance, we were impressed. We'll have a more in-depth review in a few weeks after we've put it through its paces. Or, rather, after it's put us through our paces. [Microsoft/Nike]