Gadgets 17.05.07

That's exertainment! Tom Rowe breaks a sweat to find some innovative ways to keep the flab at bayAs the name suggests, exer-tainment is the combination of exercise and entertainment (no, not execrable entertainment). This concept can be found in gyms around the world, and is now making its way into our homes. Specially designed games can trick even the most sloth-like children into moving around, and you can play after they have gone to bed, exhausted. Both the Nintendo Wii and the Dancing Stage have been around for a while, but with the media focusing more and more on the issue of obesity these days, Village decided to remind you how save yourselves from this scourge while still having fun.

Fisher-Price Smart Cycle

The Smart Cycle from Fisher-Price is a clever way to make use of children's addiction to television. Seeing as they are already in front of the tube, hook up the Cycle to the TV and get them to pedal down virtual roads, visiting places like Number Creek, Letter Field or Shape Lake. If this is too obviously educational to fool them, they can play games (all involving letters or numbers) or just race other drivers.

Yes, Village has heard all the jokes about harnessing the power of small children to run our household appliances, and we are not impressed.

€75 (available Autumn 2007).

Konami's Dancing Stage

Known as Dancing Stage in this part of the world, and Dance Dance Revolution everywhere else, these games are commonly found in dark computer arcades, surrounded by sweaty youths staring at each other's feet. It is as disturbing as it sounds. Even more worryingly, these (predominately male) teenagers are exercising more vigorously then any depressed gym dweller ever would, and they seem to enjoy it. Secondary school teachers in Norway (where DDR is an official sport) and the US have already cottoned on to the fact that this is a way to get their bone-idle students to have fun in PE class.

The aim of the game is to follow the dance steps, in time to the music. If you put a step wrong, you lose a point. It can get very frantic as the levels get harder. Village does not see the attraction, but the crowds watching the star players in the arcades don't seem to worry about that.

Nintendo Wii

The Nintendo Wii is a console that can require a distressing amount of movement from gamers. Playing the boxing game, for example, involves violently punching the air as fast as possible in an attempt to land a blow on your opponent's strangely arm-less figure on the TV. The sensors pick up most of your movements while you hold the remote controllers in each hand.

You can also you get down to the serious business of golfing in your living room. The putter-and-glass of the wannabe yuppie is a far cry from the Wii. Maybe Village needs to get out on a proper golf course more, but this feels like the real thing. A full, followed-through golf swing is required for a good shot. Admittedly, it is sedate, but you can easily switch back to baseball, bowling or tennis if you feel the need to strain your arms in the name of exercise.