Xbox Fitness has 1.5M users, may go mobile

By Jonah Comstock
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713f59be-d061-4c00-9c12-2e7409b938fdLast year, MobiHealthNews wrote several times about how the new Kinect (the motion sensing technology powering the Xbox One) had the potential to change home health care in several areas, including fitness.

The Xbox One launched this past November, and now data is starting to come back about consumer interest in the fitness tracking capabilities the Kinect provides.

According to a recent post at Polygonnearly 1.5 million people have used Microsoft's Xbox Fitness since it launched in November. The monthly subscription app is currently included for free with an Xbox Live Gold membership, but Microsoft officials told Polygon that could be changing in 2015.

The app includes workout videos from celebrity fitness trainers Jillian Michaels, Tracy Anderson, Insanity's Shaun T, and P90X's Tony Horton. In addition to playing the workout videos, though, the Kinect sensor monitors the user and displays tips on the screen to help the user better match the trainer's instructions. It also monitors the user's heart rate using minute changes in skin pigmentation, and displays it on the screen. Two other feedback metrics are displayed on the screen: energy meter, which estimates the user's energy utilization, and muscle mapping, which indicates which muscles are getting a workout.

Microsoft Studios general manager for Lifestyle Entertainment Dave McCarthy told Polygon that launching Xbox Fitness as one of the first apps on the new console was part of a strategy to try to re-define the home fitness space.

"The key reason for getting Fitness out day one on the Xbox One launch was really to do something different in that space," he said. "We learned a lot from our forays into this space and our competitors. Our strategy is to take entertainment you love and make it better. We thought we'd make a mark on day one, even with an early adopter audience. The early numbers bear that out."

He also said the next step will be taking Xbox Fitness onto other platforms like smartphones, tablets, or PCs, hoping to provide "a consistent experience across our devices". This could involve making use of the Kinect 2 for Windows, which Microsoft began shipping previews of to developers in December. The full version is expected this summer.

However, when it comes to mobile devices, the Kinect sensor might not be required. Some recent products like Beatboxer+ demonstrate that the two-dimensional camera on most mobile devices can be adapted for 3D motion tracking with the right software.  And for some time, a number of apps have tracked heart rate optically.

Want to learn more about uses for the Microsoft Kinect in healthcare? You can purchase our report "Kinect the Docs," here.