Die Forschungsgruppe bei Sphery zielt darauf ab, Exergame-Trainingskonzepte und -szenarien zu entwerfen, zu untersuchen und nachzuweisen, um ein attraktives, effektives und benutzerzentriertes ExerCube-Erlebnis für EveryBody zu gewährleisten. 

Wir arbeiten mit Partnern aus verschiedenen Disziplinen (Mensch-Computer Interaktion, Spielentwicklung & -forschung, Industrie Design sowie Bewegungs-, Sport- und Kognitive-wissenschaften) in nationalen und internationalen R&D-Projekten zusammen und verfolgen dabei eine ganzheitliche Perspektive des Exergaming. In unseren Forschungs-projekten experimentieren wir mit innovativen Game-Balancing-Ansätzen, Spielmechaniken, Soft- & Hardware-Designs und Trainingskonzepten, die es den Spielern ermöglichen, sowohl ein attraktives und motivierendes als auch ein effektives und ganz-heitliches Körper- und Gehirntraining zu erleben.

Darüber hinaus untersuchen wir verschiedene Varianten des ExerCubes für unterschiedliche Anwendungsbereiche und Zielgruppen wie Fitness, Prävention, Rehabilitation, Schule, zu Hause und (physischen) eSports. Um diese tiefen, umfangreichen und individuellen Einblicke zu erhalten, nutzen wir den Ansatz der gemischten Methode (quantitative und qualitative Daten). Die gewonnenen Erkenntnisse aus unseren Forschungsprojekten fliessen regelmässig in unsere ExerCube Trainingskonzepte und -szenarien ein und werden in Fachzeitschriften veröffentlicht.  


Key findings

Optimal user-centred application and training experience

Improvement of cognitive functions (e.g. flexibility, concentration, and divided attention).

Strengthening of cognitive-motor processes

Vorteilhaft für Herz-Kreislauf Parameter

Generating ideal (high) training intensities

Human-Computer Interactions (CHI) Play (2019)

Towards socially immersive fitness games: An exploratory assessment through embodied sketching

In the context of this work, various social game mechanisms of the [ExerCube] were examined. Based on the study results, the ExerCube multiplayer scenario was further developed. Furthermore, these results could inspire other developers in this field and support the development of a rich design space for cooperative exergames.


Human-Computer Interactions (CHI) (2019)

[ExerCube] vs. Personal Trainer: Evaluation of a holistic, immersive, and adaptive fitness game set.

In this comparative study, the subjectively perceived effectiveness and attractiveness of training in the ExerCube (in two partial conditions: adaptive and non-adaptive) and with a personal trainer were evaluated. Specific training design recommendations for further work were derived from the results.


Frontiers in Computer Science (2020)

"HIIT" der ExerCube: Vergleich der Effektivität von funktionellem hochintensivem Intervalltraining bei konventionellem vs. Exergame-basiertem Training

In this study, we developed an adaptive functional HIIT protocol for the [ExerCube] to create a HIIT-level functional exergame. We compared this new [ExerCube] training protocol with a conventional functional HIIT (fHIIT) by taking objective (physiological) and subjective measurements of training intensity in healthy young adults. In addition, we investigated the subjective experience of the participants in terms of motivation, flow, and fun during both types of training.


Laufende Projekte

Project partners:


September 2020 – April 2023

Innosuisse Project - [ExerCube] @Home

The aim is to develop an [ExerCube] for home use to encourage inactive people to be physically active and overcome barriers such as lack of time, lack of motivation, and lack of access. Together with end users and movement scientists (focus groups), industrial designers developed a system that translates the haptic and immersive experience of the [ExerCube] into a body-based feedback system. Vibration motors (haptic), LEDs (visual), and sound systems (auditory) were integrated into the existing hand trackers, which give players real-time feedback on the exercises. The first study showed good usability and positive training experiences, such as high motivation, fun, and flow. In a second study, physical and cognitive functions are assessed after a training intervention with the [ExerCube] @Home system.

AAL Project - ExerGetic

The aim is to extend the existing [ExerCube] system for use with older people to train important motor and cognitive functions for performing activities of daily living. The focus is on adapting the hardware and software for a user-centred solution. Industrial designers extend the [ExerCube] scaffold with a harness system that can serve as fall protection during training. Based on a training concept (designed by therapists and movement scientists), game designers develop a game scenario in nature. Specific and everyday activities can be flexibly strung together (mini-games) and individually adapted in real time depending on the training focus and level of difficulty. In the first study, the user-friendliness and training experience of older adults will be investigated. 

Project partners:


May 2021 – October 2023

Project partners:


September 2021 – August 2023

DIZH Project - ExerUP

The aim is to develop and evaluate an [ExerCube] training scenario for effective and attractive sports rehabilitation, especially for knee injuries. The focus is on phase 3 of the rehabilitation process. In this phase, it is important that patients learn to link their regained physical functions with cognitive stimuli and shift their focus to a motivating and fun environment. Based on focus groups, the game designers develop specific game scenarios together with rehabilitation experts that trigger important processes for this rehabilitation phase.



Development of a Novel Home-Based Exergame With On-Body Feedback: Usability Study

Schättin, A., Pickles, J., Flagmeier, D., Schärer, B., Riederer, Y., Niedecken, S., (…), Martin-Niedecken, A. L.

JMIR Serious Games; 10(4).

With more than 1.4 billion adults worldwide classified as physically inactive, physical inactivity is a public health crisis leading to an increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases. Motivating and engaging training strategies are needed to tackle this public health crisis. Studies have shown that exergames, games controlled by active body movements, are potentially usable, attractive, and effective tools for home-based training. The ExerCube (by Sphery Ltd) has been developed as a physically immersive and adaptive functional fitness game. The development of a home-based version of the ExerCube could increase accessibility, reduce barriers to exercise, and provide an attractive solution to improve physical and cognitive health.

The aim was threefold: (1) to develop a usable home-based exergame system, (2) to evaluate the usability and training experience of the home-based exergame and its early-stage on-body feedback system, and (3) to identify avenues for further user-centered design iterations of the system.

A total of 15 healthy participants (mean age 25, SD 3 years) completed 2 laboratory visits consisting of four 5-minute exergame sessions. In each session, the on-body feedback system provided a different feedback modality (auditory, haptic, and visual feedback) to the participant. Following the second visit, participants completed a range of assessments, including the System Usability Scale (SUS), the Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale (PACES), the Flow Short Scale (FSS), the Immersive Experience Questionnaire (IEQ), and a rating of perceived exertions (RPEs) both physically and cognitively. Participants answered questions regarding the on-body feedback system and completed a semistructured interview.

Usability was rated as acceptable, with a SUS score of 70.5 (SD 12). The questionnaires revealed medium-to-high values for the training experience (FSS: 5.3, SD 1; PACES: 5.3, SD 1.1; IEQ: 4.7, SD 0.9. Physical (mean 4.8, SD 1.6) and cognitive (mean 3.9, SD 1.4) RPEs were moderate. Interviews about the on-body feedback system revealed that the majority of participants liked the haptic feedback and the combination of haptic and auditory feedback the best. Participants enjoyed the distinct perceptibility, processing, and integration of the exergame and its supportive and motivating effect. The visual feedback was perceived less positively by participants but was still classified as “potentially” helpful. The auditory feedback was rated well but highlighted an area for further improvement. Participants enjoyed the training experience and described it as motivating, interactive, immersive, something new, interesting, self-explanatory, as well as physically and cognitively challenging. Moreover, 67% (n=10) of the participants could imagine exercising at home and continuing to play the exergame in the future.

The home-based exergame and its early-stage on-body feedback system were rated as usable and an enjoyable training experience by a young healthy population. Promising avenues emerged for future design iterations.

Integrating Regular Exergaming Sessions in the ExerCube into a School Setting Increases Physical Fitness in Elementary School Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Ketelhut, S., Röglin, L., Martin-Niedecken, A. L., Nigg, C. R., & Ketelhut, K.

Journal of Clinical Medicine, 11(6) (p. 1570).

This study aimed to investigate the effects of a school-based exergame intervention on anthropometric parameters and physical fitness. Fifty-eight students (10.4 ± 0.8 years; 48% girls) were randomized into an intervention (IG) and a control (CG) group. Both groups participated in regular physical education classes during the three-month intervention period. The IG additionally received a 20-minute exergame intervention twice per week. At baseline and following the intervention period, body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) were assessed. Furthermore, a sprint test (ST), a countermovement jump test (CMJ), and a shuttle run test (SRT) were performed. Due to prescribed quarantine measures, only 34 students (18 IG; 16 CG) were included in the final analysis. A significant group−time interaction was determined in CMJ performance (p < 0.001; η2 = 0.403), with a significant increase (+2.6 ± 2.4 cm; p < 0.001; η2 = 0.315) in the IG and a significant decrease (−2.0 ± 3.1 cm; p = 0.009; η2 = 0.190) in the CG. Furthermore, ST performance significantly improved in the IG (−0.03 ± 0.08 s; p = 0.012; η2 = 0.180) but not in the CG (0.13 ± 0.16 s; p = 0.460; η2 = 0.017), revealing significant interaction effects (p = 0.02; η2 = 0.157). Significant group−time interaction was observed for the SRT (p = 0.046; η2 = 0.122), with a significant increase (+87.8 ± 98.9 m; p = 0.028; η2 = 0.147) in the IG and no changes (−29.4 ± 219.7 m; p = 0.485; η2 = 0.016) in the CG. Concerning BMI (p = 0.157; η2 = 0.063) and WHtR (p = 0.063; η2 = 0.114), no significant interaction effects were detected. School-based exergaming is a suitable tool to influence students’ physical fitness positively.

Acute Effects of Heart Rate-Controlled Exergaming on Vascular Function in Young Adults

Kircher, E., Ketelhut, S., Ketelhut, K., Röglin, L., Martin-Niedecken, A. L., Hottenrott, K., & Ketelhut, R. G.

Games for Health Journal (pp. 58-66).

Acute and regular moderate-intensity endurance exercise (MIEE) is known to positively affect vascular function. The present study assessed if an exercise session in an innovative exergame called the ExerCube can induce similar vascular reactions as an MIEE session. Twenty-eight healthy recreationally active participants (13 females and 15 males; aged 24.8 ± 3.9 years; with body mass index 23.2 ± 2.3 kg/m2) completed an exergaming session (EGS) in the ExerCube (25 minutes) and an MIEE session on a treadmill (35 minutes, 65%-70% of maximal heart rate [HR]) in a randomized order. Both before and throughout the 45 minutes after the training sessions, pulse wave velocity (PWV), total peripheral resistance (TPR), stroke volume (SV), and HR were recorded. The study was approved by the Research Ethics Board of the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (Medical Faculty of the Martin-Luther-Universität 2019-177). There were different hemodynamic responses to both types of exercises. PWV was significantly decreased 45 minutes after the EGS (P < 0.001). No significant changes were detected after MIEE (P = 0.109). TPR was significantly lower after both exercise sessions (P < 0.01). Only the EGS resulted in a significant decrease in SV 15 minutes after exercise (P < 0.001). The HR was significantly (P < 0.05) higher after both exercise sessions. After the EGS, the increase in HR was still significantly higher (P = 0.011) 45 minutes after the session. The interaction effects revealed significant differences in PWV (15 minutes, P = 0.035; 30 minutes, P = 0.004; and 45 minutes, P < 0.001), favoring the EGS. The EGS seems to induce a relevant exercise stimulus that can modulate vascular function. Therefore, this exergame may present an effective tool for prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

Gaming Instead of Training? Exergaming Induces High-Intensity Exercise Stimulus and Reduces Cardiovascular Reactivity to Cold Pressor Test

Ketelhut, S., Ketelhut, R. G., Kircher, E., Röglin, L., Hottenrott, K., Martin-Niedecken, A. L., & Ketelhut, K.

Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 55.

The present study assessed if an exercise session in an innovative exergame can modulate hemodynamic reactivity to a cold pressor test (CPT) to a similar extent as a typical moderate endurance training (ET). Furthermore, cardiorespiratory, and affective responses of an exergame session and an ET were compared. Twenty-seven healthy participants aged 25 ± 4 years (48% female; BMI 23.0 ± 2.1 kg/m2) participated in this cross-sectional study. All participants completed both an ET on a treadmill and training in the ExerCube (ECT). HR and oxygen consumption were recorded during both training sessions. Before and after both exercise sessions, the hemodynamic reactivity to a CPT was determined. During ECT, HR, oxygen consumption, energy expenditure, and the metabolic equivalent of the task were significantly higher than those obtained during ET (p < 0.001). With regard to the CPT, the participants showed significantly lower responses in peripheral systolic (p = 0.004) and diastolic blood pressure (p = 0.009) as well as central systolic (p = 0.002) and diastolic BP (P = 0.01) after ECT compared to ET. The same was true for pulse wave velocity (p = 0.039). The ECT induced a significantly higher exercise stimulus compared to the ET. At the same time, it attenuated hemodynamic stress reactivity. The ECT presents a relevant training stimulus that modulates cardiovascular reactivity to stress, which has been proven as a predictor for the development of hypertension.

A Game-Based Approach to Lower Blood Pressure? Comparing Acute Hemodynamic Responses to Endurance Exercise and Exergaming: A Randomized Crossover Trial

Kircher, E., Ketelhut, S., Ketelhut, K., Röglin, L., Hottenrott, K., Martin-Niedecken, A. L., & Ketelhut, R. G.

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(3) (p. 1349).

The present randomized crossover study aimed to determine whether an exergaming session in an innovative, functional fitness game could be an effective exercise approach that elicits favorable blood pressure (BP) responses, such as a typical moderate endurance exercise (ET). Therefore, acute hemodynamic responses after a training session in the ExerCube and an ET on a treadmill were assessed and compared. Twenty-eight healthy recreational active participants (13 women; aged 24.8 ± 3.9 years) completed an exergaming session (EX) and an ET in a randomized and counterbalanced order. Before and throughout the 45 min after the training, the peripheral and central BP were measured. After the ET, there was a moderate decrease in both peripheral systolic (-1.8 mmHg; p = 0.14) and diastolic (-0.8 mmHg; p = 0.003), as well as central diastolic (-1.5 mmHg; p = 0.006) pressure compared to the resting value before the exercise. After the EX, there was a significant decrease in peripheral systolic (-6.3 mmHg; p < 0.001) and diastolic (-4.8 mmHg; p < 0.001), as well as central systolic (-5.8 mmHg; p < 0.001) and diastolic (-5.3 mmHg; p < 0.001) pressure compared to baseline. The interaction effects showed significant differences in peripheral and central systolic BP as well as in peripheral diastolic BP (p = 0.05). The EX seems to be an effective training approach that triggers relevant peripheral and central BP-responses, which are more pronounced than after a typical ET. Therefore, the ExerCube can be a time-efficient training tool to improve cardiovascular health.

The New Way to Exercise? Evaluating an Innovative Heart-rate-controlled Exergame

Ketelhut, S., Röglin, L., Kircher, E., Martin-Niedecken, A. L., Ketelhut, R., Hottenrott, K., & Ketelhut, K.

International Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(01) (pp. 77-82).

Exergames may offer novel opportunities to expand physical activity. Most games, however, only result in low to moderate-intensity activities that are too low to allow relevant physical adjustments. In the present study, the exercise intensity of a new, heart rate controlled, functional fitness game was assessed. 28 subjects (aged 24.8±3.8 yrs; 46% female; BMI 23.2±2.3 kg/m2) were enrolled in this study. VO2max and maximal heart rate (HRmax) were assessed during a maximal graded exercise test on a treadmill and compared with the oxygen consumption (VO2) and heart rate (HR) during a game in the ExerCube.In the ExerCube, the subjects reached a peak HR of 187.43±9.22 bpm, which corresponds to 96.57±3.64% of their HRmax. The mean HR throughout the game was 167.11±10.94 bpm, corresponding to 86.07±4.33% of HRmax. VO2peak reached 41.57±5.09 ml/kg/min during the game in the ExerCube, which corresponds to 84.75±7.52% of VO2max. The mean VO2 consumption during the game reached 32.39±4.04 ml/kg/min, which corresponds to 66.01±5.09% of VO2max. The ExerCube provides a form of vigorous physical exercise. Due to its playful, immersive, and motivating nature, the ExerCube seems to be a promising tool to facilitate physical activity.


Adaptive High-Intensity Exergaming: The More Enjoyable Alternative to Conventional Training Approaches Despite Working Harder

Röglin, L., Ketelhut, S., Ketelhut, K., Kircher, E., Ketelhut, R. G., Martin-Niedecken, A. L., … & Stoll, O.

Games for Health Journal, 10(6) (pp. 400-407).

Ziel dieser Studie war es, die psychologischen und physiologischen Reaktionen auf eine Exergaming-Sitzung im ExerCube (EX) zu bewerten und sie mit den Reaktionen auf einen moderaten Ausdauerlauf (ER) zu vergleichen. Achtundzwanzig gesunde Erwachsene (13 Frauen) im Alter von 24,8 ± 3,8 Jahren nahmen an dieser Studie teil. Am ersten Testtag führten die Teilnehmer einen abgestuften Belastungstest auf einem Laufband durch, um die maximale Herzfrequenz (HR) und den Laktatspiegel zu bestimmen. An den darauffolgenden Testtagen 2 und 3 absolvierten die Teilnehmer eine EX-Sitzung und eine ER auf dem Laufband in randomisierter, ausgeglichener Reihenfolge. Die Herzfrequenz, der Grad der wahrgenommenen Anstrengung (RPE) und die Laktatwerte wurden während beider Sitzungen gemessen. Nach den Sitzungen füllten die Teilnehmer die „Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale“ und die „Flow Short Scale“ aus. Die Varianzanalyse ergab, dass die Freude (p = 0,036), der Flow (p = 0,042), der RPE (p = 0,005) sowie die mittlere und die Spitzen-HR (p < 0,001) während der EX-Sitzung im Vergleich zur ER-Sitzung signifikant höher waren. Das Geschlecht hatte keinen Einfluss auf die Unterschiede zwischen den beiden Bedingungen für die mittlere HF (p = 0,61), die maximale HF (p = 0,122), den RPE (p = 0,862), den Flow (p = 0,376) und den Genuss (p = 0,867). Während der EX-Sitzung überschritten die Laktatwerte aller Teilnehmer die individuelle Laktatschwelle (LT). Während der ER blieben die Laktatwerte unter dem LT. Der ExerCube bietet sowohl einen physiologisch relevanten Trainingsreiz als auch ein unterhaltsames Spielerlebnis. Trotz der höheren Trainingsintensität, die während der EX-Sitzung erreicht wurde, war der Spielspass im Vergleich zur ER-Sitzung deutlich höher. Daher kann der ExerCube ein vielversprechendes und ansprechendes Instrument sein, um körperliche Aktivität zu fördern.

Exploring the Design Space of Immersive Social Fitness Games: The ImSoFit Games Model

Márquez Segura, E., Rogers, K., Martin-Niedecken, A. L., Niedecken, S., & Vidal, L. T.

Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-14).

The design space of social exergames remains narrow despite the many benefits of playing and exercising together. Towards opening this design space, we followed a Research through Design (RtD) approach focused on exergames that can be fun and immersive social training experiences. Through embodied sketching activities with designers and 10 pairs of players, we explored future games for the ExerCube, an immersive exergame platform. Our work contributes with forms of intermediate-level knowledge: a design space model (the Immersive Social Fitness—ImSoFit—Games model); and a novel design vocabulary including new bodily orientations in co-located physical interaction. We illustrate their use and value by scrutinizing three of our games and applying three analytical lenses to 1) understand how design choices impact how players move together; 2) evaluate design expectations and analyze players’ behavior in relation to design choices; and 3) potentially extend the design space of immersive co-located social fitness games.

Sounddesign für Exergames: ein Pilotprojekt der Designforschung.

Hug, D., Papetti, S., Martin-Niedecken, A. L., Graf, E., & Rogers, K.

Frontiers in Psychology, 12.

Exergames profitieren von körpereigenen Aktionsgeräuschen. Wie können diese Aktionsgeräusche gestaltet werden, um Flow, Motivation und Selbstkompetenz in heterogenen Spielergruppen zu fördern? Der Mainstream-Sound von Filmen und Spielen prägt unsere Hörerwartungen und -interpretationen und bietet eine grosse Sammlung von Sounddesign-„Erfolgsfällen“. Wie können erfolgreiche Mainstream-Sounddesign-Muster als Grundlage für adaptives Action-Feedback-Sounddesign genutzt werden? Um diese Fragen zu beantworten, kombinieren wir qualitative Interpretation, Signalanalyse und Sounddesign-Expertise in einer „Forschung durch Design“-Mischmethodik

Körperliche Inaktivität bleibt eine der grössten gesellschaftlichen Herausforderungen des 21. Jahrhunderts. Jahrhunderts. Die Spieleindustrie und der Fitnesssektor haben auf diese alarmierende Tatsache mit spielbasierten oder gamifizierten Trainingsszenarien reagiert und damit den vielversprechenden Trend des Exergamings begründet. Exergames – Spiele, die mit dem (ganzen) Körper als physischem Input gespielt werden – wurden als potenziell attraktive und effektive Trainingswerkzeuge angepriesen. Gleichzeitig erforschen Forscher und Designer immer noch neue Ansätze, um das volle Potenzial dieser innovativen und unterhaltsamen Trainingsmethode auszuschöpfen. Eine Möglichkeit, die Attraktivität und Effektivität eines Exergames zu steigern, besteht darin, es durch Spielanpassungen zu individualisieren. Ein physiologischer Parameter, der häufig verwendet wird, um die körperliche Herausforderung und Intensität von Exergames auf die Fitnessfähigkeiten des Spielers abzustimmen, ist die Herzfrequenz (HR). Daher stützen sich Forscher und Entwickler häufig auf altersbasierte Formeln für die maximale Herzfrequenz (HRmax), die aus der Leistungsdiagnostik stammen. In Kombination mit der in Echtzeit ermittelten Herzfrequenz des Spielers während einer Exergame-Sitzung wird die vorher festgelegte HRmax verwendet, um die Herausforderung des Spiels so anzupassen, dass eine vorher festgelegte Herzfrequenz bzw. ein vorher festgelegtes körperliches Intensitätsniveau erreicht wird (In-Exergame-Anpassungen). Obwohl die Validität und Zuverlässigkeit dieser altersbasierten HRmax-Formeln in heterogenen Zielpopulationen nachgewiesen wurde, wird ihre Verwendung immer noch häufig kritisiert, da die HR ein individueller Parameter ist, der von verschiedenen internen und externen Faktoren beeinflusst wird. Bislang wurde in keiner Studie untersucht, ob die formelbasierte, vorberechnete HFmax im Vergleich zu einer standardisierten, individuell vorerfassten HFmax unterschiedliche Trainingsintensitäten, Trainingserlebnisse und Flow-Gefühle in einem Exergame hervorruft. Daher haben wir beide Varianten zur In-Exergame-Anpassung mit dem ExerCube – einem funktionellen hochintensiven Intervalltrainingsexergame – bei gesunden jungen Erwachsenen verglichen. Beim Vergleich der Ergebnisse der beiden Bedingungen wurden weder signifikante Unterschiede bei den Herzfrequenzparametern und der wahrgenommenen körperlichen und kognitiven Anstrengung noch beim allgemeinen Flow-Gefühl und der Freude an der körperlichen Aktivität festgestellt. Somit war der formelbasierte Ansatz der In-Ex-Game-Anpassung für die vorgestellte Studienpopulation geeignet, und der ExerCube bot eine ebenso zuverlässige In-Ex-Game-Anpassung und vergleichbare Ex-Game-Spielerfahrungen. Wir diskutieren unsere Ergebnisse im Kontext verwandter Arbeiten zu Ansätzen der Exergame-Adaption und zeigen einige Implikationen für zukünftiges adaptives Exergame-Design und Forschungsthemen auf.


“HIIT” the [ExerCube]: Comparing the Effectiveness of Functional High-Intensity Interval Training in Conventional vs. Exergame-Based Training

Martin-Niedecken, A. L., Mahrer, A., Rogers, K., de Bruin, E. D., & Schättin, A.  

Frontiers in Computer Science, 33.

Regular physical activity is crucial for a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle. Training methods such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) have become increasingly popular as they enable substantial training effects in little time. HIIT typically involves recurring short phases of close-to-maximal exercise intensity, interspersed with low-intensity recovery phases. Originally mainly practiced via uniformly repetitive movements, newer variations include varied functional and holistic exercises (fHIIT). While HIIT facilitates many health advantages, fHIIT is considered more beneficial since it activates more muscles, requires more coordination, strength and balance, and mimics more natural movements which transfer well to daily life. However, fHIIT is a very intense training approach; it requires strong focus and intrinsic motivation to frequently push beyond perceived physical and mental limits. This is a common barrier to exploiting the full potential of this efficient training method. Exergames may facilitate this kind of training due to their playful, immersive, motivating nature. Yet so far, few studies have investigated HIIT-exergames – no fHIIT-exergames. This is possibly because few exergames featured both (1) an effective training concept that is comparable to HIIT, and (2) an attractive and motivating game design. We believe that this lack of holistic integration of both aspects is partly why there is currently little evidence for long-term motivation and training effects in exergame-based training. Our work addresses this gap through the design of an adaptive fHIIT protocol for the ExerCube fitness game system, creating a HIIT-level functional exergame. We conducted a within-subjects study to compare objective and subjective training intensity induced by the ExerCube against a conventional fHIIT session with healthy young adults. Furthermore, we evaluated participants' subjective experience with regards to motivation, flow, and enjoyment during both conditions. Our results contribute empirical evidence that exergames can induce HIIT-level intensity. While perceived physical exertion was slightly lower in the ExerCube condition, it yielded significantly better results for flow, enjoyment, and motivation. Moreover, the ExerCube seemed to enable a dual-domain training (higher cognitive load). We discuss these results in the context of exergame design for fHIIT, and provide practical suggestions covering topics such as safety precautions and physical-cognitive load balancing.

Let the Body’n’Brain Games Begin: Toward Innovative Training Approaches in eSports Athletes

Martin-Niedecken, A. L., & Schättin, A. 

Frontiers in psychology, 11, 138.

The phenomenon of eSports is omnipresent today. International championships and their competitive athletes thrill millions of spectators who watch as eSports athletes and their teams try to improve and outperform each other. In order to achieve the necessary cognitive and physical top form and to counteract general health problems caused by several hours of training in front of the PC or console, eSports athletes need optimal cognitive, physical and mental training. However, a gap exists in eSports specific health management, including prevention of health issues and training of these functions. To contribute to this topic, we present in this mini review possible avenues for holistic training approaches for cognitively, physically and mentally fitter and more powerful eSports athletes based on interdisciplinary findings. We discuss exergames as a motivating and promising complementary training approach for eSports athletes, which simultaneously combines physical and cognitive stimulation and challenges in an attractive gaming environment. Furthermore, we propose exergames as innovative full-body eSports-tournament revolution. To conclude, exergames bring new approaches to (physical) eSports, which in turn raise new topics in the growing eSports research and development community.


Towards socially immersive fitness games: An exploratory assessment through embodied sketching 

Martin-Niedecken, A. L., Márquez Segura, E., Rogers, K., Niedecken, S., & Turmo Vidal, L.

Extended Abstracts of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play Companion Extended Abstracts (pp. 525-534).

Despite many benefits of playing and exercising together in terms of motivation, engagement, and social relationships, many exergames are designed to be single player, while others implement only a facade of social play (e.g., leaderboards). The challenge remains: how can exergames be designed to balance fun, exertion, and social connection? In this work, we ran an embodied sketching activity with multiplayer variations of the Sphery Racer mixed-reality fitness game, allowing us to test physical and social game mechanics. We discuss here: i) preliminary results on how these variations support a rich training and social experience; and ii) the potential of our method to surface interesting design directions. These contributions can inspire others designing in this domain, and support the development of a rich design space for co-located exergames.

[ExerCube] vs. Personal Trainer: Evaluation of a holistic, immersive, and adaptive fitness game set. 

Martin-Niedecken, A. L., Rogers, K., Turmo Vidal, L., Mekler, E. D. & Márquez Segura, E.

Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-15).

Today's spectrum of playful fitness solutions features systems that are clearly game-first or fitness-first in design; hardly any sufficiently incorporate both areas. Consequently, existing applications and evaluations often lack focus on attractiveness and effectiveness, which should be addressed on the levels of body, controller, and game scenario following a holistic design approach. To contribute to this topic and as a proof-of-concept, we designed the ExerCube, an adaptive fitness game setup. We evaluated participants' multi-sensory and bodily experiences with a non-adaptive and an adaptive ExerCube version and compared them with personal training to reveal insights to inform the next iteration of the ExerCube. Regarding flow, enjoyment, and motivation, the ExerCube is on par with personal training. Results further reveal differences in perception of exertion, types, and quality of movement, social factors, feedback, and audio experiences. Finally, we derive considerations for future research and development directions in holistic fitness game setups.


The [ExerCube]: Participatory design of an immersive fitness play environment 

Martin-Niedecken, A. L. & Mekler, E. D.

Joint International Conference on Serious Games (pp. 263-275).

Exergames have advanced from a trend in the entertainment industry to serious training applications. Nowadays body-centered games can be played at home, as well as in the gym, and provide an effective and motivating workout experience for the player. However, existing solutions often lack a symbiotic and user-centered design approach encompassing the three exergame design levels: the player’s body (input movements), the controller (input device), and the game (story, game mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics). Consequently, existing systems exhibit weaknesses like motion sickness or a lack of audio-visual and narrative design of the physical and virtual play space. As such, the player’s game experiences remain limited. Our work contributes to the sustainable establishment of fitness games as effective and attractive training tools. In this paper, we introduce the “ExerCube” and the design, evaluation, and subsequent re-design of the early-stage prototype. The “ExerCube” is a fitness game setting for adults, which affords immersive gameplay experiences while engaging in a playful motor-cognitive and -coordinative functional workout. Our findings show that the preliminary “ExerCube” prototype was usable and well received by the target audience. We report insights about the target audience’s preferences and identify avenues for the implementation of dual flow-based game mechanics, the optimization of the training concept and hardware, as well as for the further development of the game scenario.


Prof. Dr. Anna Martin-Niedecken

MSc. Yanick Riederer