“Nike+ Kinect Training” Provides World Class Athletic Training – at Home

Microsoft and Nike team up to make Nike’s elite athletic training – never before available to the public – available to everyone in the comfort of their living room with the power of Kinect for Xbox 360.

REDMOND, Wash. – Oct. 30, 2012 – Want to get athlete fit? With “Nike+ Kinect Training,” you can just do it in your living room.

“Nike+ Kinect Training,” a new personal training program for Xbox 360, hits shelves today. It’s just in time for gift shoppers – or, just in time to buy, open, and use it to help stay in shape during the calorie-laden holidays.

“This is really not an exercise game; it’s a game-changing, truly personalized fitness program,” says Michelle Tatom, one of Microsoft’s executive producers of “Nike+ Kinect Training.”

Stacey Law and Jim Geist, part of the Microsoft team behind Nike+ Kinect, say the partnership with Nike took Kinect’s tracking abilities to the next level. Image credit: Microsoft

The whole experience is designed to emulate the benefits of working out with a world-class Nike trainer – the attention, the motivation, the guidance – but in the privacy of your living room. It’s years of Nike training expertise, normally available to only professional athletes, made affordable and accessible by the magic of Kinect.

First, “Nike+ Kinect Training” lets you pick your trainer – either Marie Purvis or Alex Molden, both of whom are real-life master trainers for Nike who have trained all manner of elite athletes from NBA stars to Olympic gold medalists.

You select a goal for your training: get strong, get lean, or get toned. Then, your trainer gives you a fitness assessment to see how your body moves, and to assess your physical strengths and areas for improvement. That information is used to create a customized workout plan uniquely for you. Every four weeks, “Nike+ Kinect Training” gives you a fitness challenge to see your improvement against your initial benchmark. Then your program will dynamically change to keep you challenged, motivated and working toward your goals.

While you do exercises (i.e., pushups, squats, high knees) or play games (i.e., dodgeball), trainers give real-time feedback, including encouragement and form corrections. But if you don’t want it to be just you and your trainer, “Nike+ Kinect Training” also has social features – you can post your workouts to Facebook, work out with a friend via Xbox LIVE video chat, or even compete against anyone in the world in fitness challenges.

“Nike+ Kinect Training” is fully cloud powered. In addition to social features and multiplayer options, the cloud power means if you have Nike+ account, you can sync your Kinect workout with your other Nike+ products.

Michelle Tatom, executive producer of Nike+ Kinect and an avid runner, says that when using the program she went from being able to do three pushups at a time to 30. Image credit: Microsoft

“When we first started collaborating with Nike, we were showing them technology that was still being invented,” Tatom says. “We were very deliberate in the very beginning when we decided to invest in fitness that we wanted Nike as a partner – there was really no other consideration.”

Though Kinect was still in its conceptual phase, the Microsoft and Nike teams had the brains, brawn and vision to help them imagine and bring to life an elite, in-home personal training program. And thus, the Nike+ Kinect project was born.

Microsoft News Center recently sat down with a few members of the Microsoft team behind “Nike+ Kinect Training”: Tatom, Stacey Law and Jim Geist. Tatom, executive producer; Law, a senior program manager; and Geist, a software development engineer, discussed the process of creating the fitness program, working with Nike, and how many pushups they can do in a minute.

MNC: Microsoft and Nike are two companies well known for their respective expertise – how did the partnership work out, so to speak?

Geist: Nike is known for its athletic expertise and we’re known for our expertise in technology. The partnership required a lot of give and take on both sides, and a lot of discussion. In the end, the collaboration resulted in us making an amazing personal training product together.

Tatom: We spent the last few years really pushing the envelope of what Kinect could do in partnership with Nike. We needed something more robust than Kinect’s out-of-the-box tracking. We collaborated with Nike to ensure we had the level of precision we need to have the best training program and consumer experience possible.

Nike is really synonymous with athletic performance and excellence. Because they are so premiere in everything that they do, they were able to push our teams in ways we otherwise might not have evolved Kinect technology.

Trainers Making House Calls. The Nike+ Kinect experience is designed to emulate the benefits of seeing a top Nike trainer – the attention, the motivation, the guidance – but in the privacy of your living room. Image credit: Microsoft

MNC: How did Kinect evolve as a result of working with Nike?

Geist: Getting the tracking right was definitely a challenge. We actually wrote custom software for “Nike+ Kinect Training” to allow accurate floor tracking for the first time.

Law: There’s a tricky difference between what’s actually right and what feels right that we had to solve for with “Nike+ Kinect Training.” Say you lift a leg in the air for an exercise – even though it feels straight, it doesn’t look entirely straight to the Kinect sensor. There’s that fuzzy area there between what is actually happening in front of the sensor, which is very objective, and understanding there is a threshold outside of that absolute that we need to take into account in the body tracking.

Geist: We made Kinect, so we have a lot of smart people here who understand how Kinect works, but we also put a lot of work into taking Kinect’s tracking to the next level, which was informed in large part by feedback from the Nike trainers.

MNC: Have you all used Nike+ Kinect to work out?

Law: It’s a magical moment when the Kinect sensor corrects your form so you can get the most out of your workout. My brain knows that it’s a Kinect experience, but every time I get a piece of feedback from my virtual trainer, it really hits me that Kinect can see me better than the human eye.

Tatom: Testing Nike+ Kinect was an amazing experience for me. I’m a runner, I love to run, and it was hard for me to move away from running, but I used it very faithfully. I don’t have much upper body strength – I could only do two to three pushups when we started, and by the end I could do more than 30 at a time. It was really exciting for me to see the results, even after a week. I thought, “Oh my gosh this is amazing, I’ve never had that kind of upper body strength.”

MNC: What do you do when you’re not working on a workout program at work?

Geist: I have a motorcycle, and I like to ride when the weather’s nice. I play a wide range of games at home, like “World of Warcraft.” I volunteer as well – Microsoft has a program called Wumpus where you go into high schools, form teams in a class, and help students develop games.

Law: I travel a lot for work, but in my free time I like to travel for fun. On nice days, I like to ride on my scooters or play volleyball. I also volunteer at hippotherapy clinic, which offers therapy using horses. As for video games, I like to play tower defense games.

Tatom: I love to run, I love taking spinning classes, I love hot yoga. I love biking, I love swimming, hiking, roller blading, wakeboarding – I’m pretty fanatical about anything outdoors. I only wish I had more time to do all the things I enjoy doing. I’m one of those people who fits it in wherever I can, even if that means I give up on sleep. My coworkers always joke when we travel together – even if we’ve been working super late, I’ll get up at 5 a.m. to make sure I get my long workout in before we start the day. For me, it gives me balance in my life and particularly in my job. it’s so energizing for me and invigorating to start the day with really great workout.

MNC: Wow, so do you have a guilty pleasure you allow yourself with all that working out?

Tatom: My guilty pleasures are chocolate and red wine.

MNC: Who do you think will use Nike+ Kinect , and what effect do you think it can have?

Law: I definitely think this will appeal to a wide group of people, including those who feel more comfortable working out in their living room than at the gym

Geist: I definitely felt better, slept better, had more energy. It’s a cliché, but when I was using it, I could definitely tell it was true.

Tatom: I can see this changing people’s lives. At the same time, I will say that any life change like that comes about from within. We can provide them the tools, and the education and some motivation, but at the end of the day, that really comes from within a person. I’m excited to hear the testimonials and results people have with “Nike+ Kinect Training.”

*Source: Microsoft

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