We were presented with the opportunity to develop the next generation of home exercise equipment — A motivating and fun way for people to get and stay fit at home.
Our aim was to design a product that intelligently motivates you to achieve your fitness goals without the need for an instructor. To do this we combined gaming and smart technology to add depth to the home exercise experience.
Our smart gaming bike has several unique features including gaming controls with lockable steering, a digitally switchable hub and a fan built into the display that links gaming achievements to physical rewards.
We randomly generated hundreds of bike silhouettes to inspire our form development. We wanted to maintain the feeling of a bike frame, while also carefully integrating a number of new technologies into the compact form factor.
We chose a direction which highlights both the frame and the flywheel enclosure in a dynamic silhouette. Our choice was influenced by three factors:
1. The large spinning flywheel needed to be enclosed for safety but we didn't want to hide it entirely. To maintain a high-performance feeling we partially revealed the mechanical drive-train and flywheel using a transparent cover.
2. Many exercise bikes are built with the same standard structure where a large welded shoulder joint visually dominates the design. Instead we hid this part of the frame to make an iconic element of the flywheel.
2. The digitally switchable hub. This enables both fixed and free-wheel riding, so gamers can be road racing one minute and track cycling the next. The extra mechanics meant there was more structure to incorporate around the flywheel.
The fan is neatly hidden inside the display housing. It not only cools but intelligently simulates the game environment. For instance, if you hit an in-game speed boost, expect a cool blast of air. Using physical rewards for in-game achievements helps to motivate players without the need for an instructor.
The handlebar has 20 degrees of rotation for steering. Buttons simulate breaking and gear change, plus there are two action buttons and a joystick to support a wide range games.
The biggest challenge for the handlebar was positioning the gaming controls in a way where riders have the dexterity to play comfortably while also supporting their body-weight in an active riding position.
We designed three main grip positions. An upright cycling posture where you can rest but still steer. An active position with a large palm support which is most natural for gaming and steering. And lastly an extension which provides more balanced support when riding out of the saddle.
After physically testing many different prototypes we realized that to give riders a more secure grip on the handle the buttons should be lowered, separating them from the main handle structure.
To make the gaming more immersive and tactile we proposed using sensors in the handlebar to track changes in the riders position. This unlocks another level of interaction as the game character can closely mimic small movements from players, without introducing more buttons and complexity. In addition, the sensors can be used to gamify post-workout stretching to help foster healthier exercise habits.
After significant development, this project was unfortunately put on hold. The appetite for home exercise equipment declined in-line with the loosening of global Covid restrictions. On the plus side we developed a broad knowledge and experience through this project and would be thrilled to work in the exercise and fitness space again in the future.