Prof. Dr. Anna Martin-Niedecken

MSc. Yanick Riederer


Sphery is a dynamic company that emerged in March 2018 from a research project at the Zurich University of the Arts. Sphery combines academic expertise with practical application, with a strong combination of innovation and creativity. Our interdisciplinary team is on a mission to push the boundaries of technology, design, and training to create new training stimuli and give more people a motivating approach to exercise. 

Through continuous research and a multidisciplinary approach to development, we strive to stay one step ahead. 

We work with partners from different disciplines (human-computer interaction, game development & research, industrial design as well as movement, sport, and cognitive sciences) in national and international R&D projects and pursue a holistic perspective of exergaming.

In our research projects, we experiment with innovative game balancing approaches, game mechanics, software & hardware designs, and training concepts that allow players to experience both attractive & motivating as well as effective & holistic body and brain training.

In addition, we are investigating different variants of the [ExerCube] for different areas of application and target groups such as fitness, prevention, rehabilitation, school, home, and (physical) eSports.

To obtain these deep, comprehensive, and individual insights, we use the mixed method approach (quantitative and qualitative data).

The knowledge gained from our research projects is regularly incorporated into our [ExerCube] training concepts and scenarios and is published in specialist journals.  

Our research partners

Key findings

Optimal user-centred application and training experience

All training methods are developed using a user-centred approach and offer a unique training experience adapted to each individual's abilities

Comparing the Impact of Heart Rate-Based In-Game Adaptations in an Exergame-Based Functional High-Intensity Interval Training on Training Intensity and Experience in Healthy Young Adults. Martin-Niedecken AL, Schwarz T, Schättin A. To the study

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, Villiger S, Jurt R, Kind N, Scott SN, Stettler C, Martin-Niedecken AL

To the study

Improvement of cognitive functions

(e.g. flexibility, concentration and divided attention)

Scientific research has shown that training with the [ExerCube] improves several cognitive functions such as flexibility, concentration, and divided attention. These effects even occur in athletes with already highly developed cognitive functions.

Strengthening of motor-cognitive processes

[ExerCube] training improves and optimises the connections between motor skills and cognitive functions of the human brain. It is about the coordination and integration of physical movement with cognitive processes such as perception, attention, memory, and decision-making.

 The ExerCube: Participatory Design of an Immersive Fitness Game Environment.

Martin-Niedecken, A.L., Mekler, E.D. (2018)

To the study

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

Martin-Niedecken AL, Mahrer A, Rogers K, de Bruin ED and Schättin A (2020)

To the study

Beneficial for cardiovascular health

Acute and regular training with the [ExerCube] has proven positive effects on the cardiovascular system that are even greater compared to conventional training. In addition, regular ExerCube training has been shown to improve maximum oxygen consumption (VO2,max) and endurance performance.

Comparison of an exergame and a moderate-intensity endurance training intervention on physiological parameters.

Schürch, Y., Burger, M., Amor, L., Zehnder, C., Benzing, V., Mieschler, M., Baur, H., Schmid, S., Bangerter, C., Nigg, C. R., & Ketelhut, S.

To the study

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 AL, Nigg CR, Ketelhut K.

To the study

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

Kircher E, Ketelhut S, Ketelhut K, Röglin L, Martin-Niedecken AL, Hottenrott K, Ketelhut RG

To the study

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

Ketelhut S, Ketelhut RG, Kircher E, Röglin L, Hottenrott K, Martin-Niedecken AL and Ketelhut K (2022)

To the study

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 AL, Ketelhut RG

To the study

Generation of ideal (high) training intensities

Training with the [ExerCube] can lead up to a very high training intensity and is still a playful, immersive, and motivating training method. 6. 7. 8.

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

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

To the study

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

Röglin L, Ketelhut S, Ketelhut K, Kircher E, Ketelhut RG, Martin-Niedecken AL, Hottenrott K, Stoll O.

To the study

Comparing the Impact of Heart Rate-Based In-Game Adaptations in an Exergame-Based Functional High-Intensity Interval Training on Training Intensity and Experience in Healthy Young Adults.

Martin-Niedecken AL, Schwarz T, Schättin A.

To the study

Optimal user-centred application and training experience

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

Strengthening of cognitive-motor processes

Beneficial for cardiovascular system

Generating ideal (high) training intensities

CHI PLAY '19 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play

Towards Socially Immersive Fitness Games: An Exploratory Evaluation 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.


CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems

ExerCube vs. Personal Trainer: Evaluating a Holistic, Immersive, and Adaptive Fitness Game Setup

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.



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



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.