WASHINGTON (TIP): A software-generated partner — cyber buddy — can give exercise enthusiasts the extra nudge they need during a workout , a new study has found. The study by Michigan State University researchers is the first to indicate that although a human partner is still a better motivator during exercise, a software-generated partner also can be effective.
“We wanted to demonstrate that something that isn’t real can still motivate people to give greater effort while exercising than if they had to do it by themselves,” said Deborah Feltz, who led the study with coinvestigator Brian Winn. The implications from the research also could open the door for software and video game companies to create cyber buddy programmes based on sport psychology.
“Unlike many of the current game designs out there, these results could allow developers to create exercise platforms that incorporate team or partner dynamics that are based on science,” said Feltz. Using “CyBud-X ,” an exercise game specifically developed for Feltz’s research, 120 college-aged participants were given five different isometric plank exercises to do with one of three same-sex partner choices.
Along with a human partner option, two softwaregenerated buddies were used — one representing what looked to be a nearly human partner and another that looked animated . The participant and partner image were then projected onto a screen via a web camera while exercising. The results showed that a significant motivational gain was observed in all partner conditions.