Childhood obesity has had a great deal of press lately, thanks to campaigns about school meals and worrying statistics about diabetes. One UK company is taking a novel approach to combining kids' love of games with their need to exercise. The Oceana Trading Company has released a new addition to its Gymkids range--the Step2Play exercise machine, which works with the PlayStation to keep games working only as long as kids keep stepping on the machine.
The product uses patented technology and claims to work with any PlayStation or PlayStation 2 game. A sensor detects if the desired exercise rate is not maintained and pauses the game until kids get stepping again.
The exercise machines are designed to be used by children aged between 7 and 11 years old, and cost £115 each (around $218)--but the company stresses that they are not meant to be used without parental supervision.
In an interview with the BBC, Dr. Ian Campbell, honorary medical director for charity Weight Concern and former chairman of the UK National Obesity Forum, expressed his disappointment at the machines, stating that he believed they were "a terrible indictment of society."
He told the BBC that he thought a more far-reaching exercise program would be more useful and effective. "Anything that encourages them [children] to exercise has to be helpful. However, how sad that we have to bribe children into physical activity...I don't think this is a bad invention, but I don't think it's ideal. It would be far better to encourage an increase in physical activity across the board, at both school and at home."
Rick Dalton, director of Gymkids, laughed at the comments in an interview with GameSpot. "In some ways I'd agree with him," he joked. "In an ideal world, people would be able to do what they want, kids would be able to play games and get the right amount of exercise. Sadly, we don't live in this world. As to bribing them, well, if it means bribing them a little bit, don't parents do that anyway? Even if it's to get kids to go somewhere with you, you might say 'I'll buy you a soft drink if you come.' It's all about compromise."
The company is hoping to have the Step2Play on the UK market by Christmas.