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The 14 Best Playstation 4 Workout Games with PSVR for 2020 25.12.19

Christmas is over, and that means three things. First, a lot of you are stuffed from feasting on Who pudding and rare Who roast beast. Second, it’s way, way, way too cold to go out and exercise. And third, a lot of you found brand new PSVR and Playstation 4 units under the three.

One tradition I had when I used to blog about Wii fitness games was releasing my annual Best Wii Fitness Games list right after Christmas. There’d be a huge spike in Google traffic looking for the best games that were both fun and also helped provide a great workout for trimming some of the fat that the one-two punch of Thanksgiving and Christmas eating.

And so here’s my list of the best exercise games for the PSVR. My schedule has been such lately that I haven’t been able to write an in-depth review of these, but those will be coming in the near future. But in the meantime, I wanted to share what I found so you can start your workouts now.

Most of these games are available as downloads to the Playstation Store, so you’ll need a Playstation Store Gift Card to find your account.

1. Beat Saber – Hands down (and up, and to the side), this is the best video game workout for the PSVR, and one of the best video game workouts ever. The concept is deceptively simple: you hold a move controller in each hand and as blocks come toward you, you need to swipe at them, in the right direction to the beat of some catchy music. Think of it like Dance Dance Revolution for your hands.

Of course, this isn’t your father’s DDR. What VR brings to the table is incredible precision–it’s no longer “swipe and pray” as it’s been with every other motion control game in the past. As long as your camera is set up in the right place, the game can pick up your full range of motion as you swipe your light sabers and duck to avoid giant blocks. As with any great video game exercise, it’s so much fun you won’t want to quit, and as each level gets progressively more difficult your dopamine and adrenaline kick in to the point where you don’t want to stop until you conquer the level. This game is the perfect balance of fun and exercise, which means it should be on the top of everyone’s workout list.

2.  BoxVR – While Beat Saber takes the prize for the most immersive and fun workout, BoxVR tops the list for a good cardio workout. The concept here is simple as well. You hold a Move Controller in each hand, and through the magic of VR they turn into boxing gloves. Targets come hurtling towards you that direct you to throw jabs, hooks, upper cuts, or blocks. There are multiple levels ranging from easy to intense. The workouts are designed by real instructors, so the programs feel just like the kind an instructor would give you at a gym. In fact, you can choose from a handful of gym motifs to put you in the mood.

3. Creed – Rise to GloryCreed: Rise to Glory launched with the release of the movie Creed 2. While most movie tie-in video games are horrible games that are rushed to market and where most of the money went into paying for licensing vs. paying actual video game developers, this one completely bucks that trend. It’s developed by Survios, creators of other huge VR hits like Raw Data and Sprint Vector. And while it’s not the same as real boxing, with the power of VR it’s by far the most realistic boxing simulation ever on a video game console.

You can play as Adonis Creed or as other characters from the film universe. You can get trained by Rocky Balboa himself (an uncanny valley representation of Sylvester Stallone) and then go straight to different venues where you fight various opponents. The VR is done well–the environments really do feel realistic when you look around, from small gyms to giant arenas. The boxing basics are there–punch, block, and dodge, and learn the patterns of your opponents to beat them.

4. VirZOOMVirZOOM is not just a game, but comes with its own accessory–a full-sized exercise bike that’s surprisingly solid and sturdy and lets you control resistance. There’s also a VZ Sensor that turns any existing stationary bike into a VirZOOM controller.

The star of the show are the games, all of which you use the exercise bike to control your speed and buttons on the exercise bike to do things like shoot. There’s not just one game but multiple, including driving a race car, flying a helicopter, riding a horse, driving a tank, riding a pegasus, and rowing a kayak. While the $400 price tag may seem pricey, bear in mind that you get a number of these games as part of the price. I’ll describe more when I write my full review, but there are moments in the game that are truly jaw-dropping (the most amazing of which is when you’re riding your Pegasus off the side of a cliff into the air and look down for the first time).

If you look at VirZOOM’s founders and team, you’ll see that it isn’t just a startup of wide-eyed millennials. Among its team is are multiple former executives and staff at Harmonix (behind the creation of Rock Band, among other things), and the head developer of the Nintendo Wiimote, so there’s some impressive DNA in this product. Try it and you’ll see how amazing it is, and how $400 is a steal when you consider the hours you’ll be spending getting effective cardio vs. at the gym.

5. Knockout League – Released on February 13, 2018, Knockout League is a game that evokes the spirit of the old Punch-Out!! game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, but takes it to brand new, virtual reality levels. In it, you’re a boxer fighting through round after round of cartoon  fighters with their own idiosyncratic styles. You can block, duck, punch, get an up-close look inside your opponent’s mouth, and do just about everything you can in real life, without getting punched for real. Read our full review here.

6. SuperHOT – Released on July 21, 2017, SuperHOT is a shooter game where you’re shooting hoardes of people chasing after you. For the faint of heart don’t worry, it’s rated “T” for teen, so you won’t see see blood and guts splattering everywhere; you’re just shooting at red block figures that disintegrate as you shoot them. This is another surprisingly good workout as you’re constantly turning and aiming and shooting.

7. SparcSparc is a virtual sports game that was released on August 29, 2017. It takes the single-player concepts of Holoball and Proton Pulse Plus (see below) but brings it to a whole new level. Like those games, it’s a virtual game similar to racquetball or squash. Unlike them, you can play against real people around the world. You stand inside an enclosed court and use your Move controllers to control your hands just like you’re playing racquetball. The graphics are simple, stylized line art, but the gameplay physics are remarkably similar to playing real racquet sports. In fact, after a while of playing, you get a workout similar to tennis, fencing, or boxing.

8. Sprint Vector – The object of the game is–to sprint. The PSVR, of course, doesn’t allow you to run very far on your legs, so this game has you swinging your arms to propel forward. Like a speed skater, you’ll be in a crouching position for much of the game, which ultimately will help you work out your core. You time your arm swings to move forward, as well as to jump, glide, shoot, use power ups, and climb. As confusing as that sounds, after completing the training and playing a few times the motions become surprisingly intuitive, and then it’s off to the races.

9. HoloBallHoloball was the first of two “racquet sports” PSVR games released on November 22, 2016. Racquet sports is one of the more obvious applications of virtual reality fitness–true racquet sports requires you to run back and forth, and of course that aspect of the sport is missing in PSVR (until they invent wireless VR headsets and shatterproof table lamps). But just moving within a few square feet of space and moving your hands produces a surprisingly effective workout. Between this and Proton Pulse Plus (below), this was definitely the stronger of the two.

10. Fruit Ninja VR – Released on December 20, 2016, Fruit Ninja VR is the ultimate incarnation of this classic game. Fruit Ninja on your smartphone was a nice diversion, and Fruit Ninja on the Xbox was the first to give your whole body a workout. But the PSVR version of the game brings the game to a whole new level, and is just about the closest you can get to the real thing without a set of machetes and fresh fruit. Watching animated fruit fly all around you in 3D is something everyone should experience.

11. Headmaster – Headmaster is a heady (sorry) game where you head off soccer balls just like in read life. There’s a fair amount of ducking, squatting, jumping, and moving that gets you a decent workout.

12. Carnival Games VR – Carnival Games on the Wii was a fun set of games that you might find in your local carnival or amusement park. The VR version brings it to a whole new level, where you can play 12 different carnival games. Most of them don’t provide a workout, but there are a few where you do build up a sweat, especially as you get obsessed into beating them (without having to spend $5 a pop as in real life). The standout, by far, is the climbing wall game where you need to race the clock to climb walls way up high going from hand hold to hand hold.

13. Dick WildeDick Wilde is a shoot-em-up game that a lot of people have reported provides a pretty good workout, thanks to a lot of dodging and ducking as you shoot everything in sight.

14. Proton Pulse PlusProton Pulse Plus was the second of two “racquet sports” PSVR games released on November 22, 2016. Again, it’s a game where you use your Move controller as a paddle to hit a bouncy ball; the goal is much like “brick breaking” arcade games. There’s a frenetic soundtrack and constantly flashing graphics that the game publisher touts as a throwback to the 90’s. The gameplay is a level lower than Sparc and Holoball, but at $10 it’s still a worthy addition to your collection, as it does some pretty good cardio as you get into the game.

As I said, in time I’ll be providing in-depth reviews of all these games, but I wanted to get this list to all of you with brand spanking new PSVRs who are looking for ways to get your heart pumping and your body sweating.

Working out with the PSVR does have its disadvantages, the main one bring that perspiration and VR headsets don’t really mix. I’ll dedicate an upcoming post to that as well, but the spoiler alert is that you typically need two things: a good fan blowing right at you (helps with motion sickness too), and a good sanitary mask to protect your headset from sweat.

Review of Ring Fit Adventure – Fitness Game for the Nintendo Switch 20.10.19

No, you’re not having dejà-vu. This is a review for Ring Fit Adventure, a new fitness game from Nintendo.

You know those old movies where someone walks into a old building filled with long-abandoned machinery, flips a few switches, and you hear the equipment whirring to life. That’s kind of what it felt like coming back to this blog.

Don’t get me wrong–I’ve loved reviewing PSVR games. But as immersive as they’ve been and as technically advanced they’ve gotten since the days of Wii Fitness Gaming, it’s still not 100% there yet. The bulky VR headset is still a barrier for me to use it daily. I’ve heard of people using ankle weights and wrist weights; but trying to exercise with VR is like having a head weight. It’s still not like the days of games like Walk It Out, EA Sports Active, and Wii Fit.

If you don’t remember the Wii Fitness craze, here’s a refresher. In November 2006, Nintendo launched the Wii, the successor to Nintendo’s GameCube console. Everyone was predicting the end of Nintendo as flashy new consoles from Microsoft and Sony came out. And yet the Wii’s use of motion controls changed console gaming. Instead of working out your thumbs, you could move your arms around to play games. In 2008, Nintendo followed up with Wii Fit, which combined innovative hardware (the Wii Fit Balance Board and the Wii Fit Meter) and a set of games that let you track your weight, do yoga and calisthenics, and play mini games that got you moving your legs and your arms.

The concept took off like wildfire. So did this blog. You can read the archives to see the history to see some of the fantastic fitness games Nintendo and third party game developers made (and a lot of shovelware from publishers looking to cash in on the craze). Microsoft and Sony scrambled to come up with the Kinect and the Move Controllers, respectively, to try to catch up to Nintendo.

And then it all stopped. Why? Mainly because the time people had been spending playing Wii exercise games was now taken up by people farming crops, crushing candies, and flinging birds. Microsoft’s efforts at motion gaming flopped. Sony repurposed the Move to support its new PSVR. Nintendo launched the Wii U in hopes to keeping motion gaming alive, but console exercise, for all intents and purposes, was dead. When the new Nintendo Switch was launched in 2017, Nintendo focused all of its marketing efforts on traditional console gaming. Motion gaming wasn’t even advertised as one of the benefits.

It’s now two years later, and Nintendo has launched its first fitness game for the Switch, called Ring Fit Adventure.

When I saw the first reports about Ring Fit Adventure, it sounded really gimmicky. It came with two accessories that were “dumb” in that they didn’t have any electronics built in–just a plastic “ring” called a Ring-Con that seemed like a glorified Mario Kart plastic steering wheel, and a leg strap that seemed like a glorified Zumba fitness belt. Am I really going to pay $80 for this?

But as with all things Nintendo, the magic came out with the software. And that’s where Ring Fit Adventure shines. Nintendo did something very smart–they didn’t try to re-create Wii Fit. Instead, they created a complete role playing adventure game (RPG), with characters that have personality, quests to complete, monsters to slay, goodies to collect, potions to drink, and an entire world to explore. According to Nintendo, if you play for an hour a day you’ll finish the game in about 4 months.

While I really like about Ring Fit Adventure is that it brings together a lot of the great features of some of the best old Wii games, fitness games and otherwise. As with that great game Walk It Out, you need to walk in place to get your character to move through the world. As with the flying chicken game in Wii Fit Plus, at some points in the game you need to flap your arms to fly. As with games like Pokemon, when you encounter an enemy you need to fight them in a turn-based way–only instead of mashing buttons you’re doing as series of exercise moves, from yoga positions, to squats, to core exercises, to try to knock your opponent’s health bars while preserving yours. As with games like Mario there are coins to pick up along the way, but instead of just walking over them you’re stretching the Ring-Con to pick them up.

The Ring-Con is a surprisingly versatile peripheral that’s really a Pilates Ring in disguise. It’s a resistance device designed to be twisted, stretched, squeezed, pointed, and to otherwise take a lot of abuse. A lot of time has passed since those old days of getting frustrated with the poor motion tracking of the early Wii controllers–the Switch controllers do a fantastic job of tracking your movements precisely and accurately. The combination of the red Switch controller (which you put in the Ring-Con) and the blue one (which you put in your leg strap) enables a surprisingly large number of different exercises. You’ll find yourself twisting your body to paddle your boat, doing high knee exercises to run up stairs, doing squats to jump on trampolines.

I also love how they thought of a lot of details. Living on a third floor apartment, back in the Wii days my downstairs neighbors sometimes had to pound on their ceiling with a broomstick to get me to stop. Ring Fit Adventure has a mode called “Silent Mode” that lets you do fast squats instead of jogging in place. Another cool idea is “Multi-Task” mode, where you can build up reps while watching TV or or sitting at your desk, and they’ll be “credited” to you when you go back to playing the main game.

Nintendo’s secret sauce has always been that it “gets” character development and the emotional connection we get to video game characters. It would have been so easy (and lucrative) for Nintendo to just dust Mario or Link and have them “star” in this game. Instead, they introduce a whole new cast of characters with personalities of their own. The main antagonist of the game is Dragaux, a body-building dragon who plans on unleashing his reign of evil on the world. Your sidekick/trainer/cheerleader is a character named “Ring” who happens to look exactly like your Ring-Con controller. Ring will encourage you as you go from quest to quest, moving through different levels and encountering different adventures.

You’ll find yourself sweating and getting a full-body workout. Different enemies will have different colors, and each of the colors represents a different part of your body you’ll be working out. Blue-colored enemies will get you to work out your legs, red enemies your arms, and yellow your core. With green enemies you’ll find yourself doing yoga poses.

What would a Nintendo game be without mini-games, of course? In addition to the main RPG game, there are a number of fun mini-games that manage to match the fun and addictiveness of the kinds of games they had in Wii Fit. There are 12 mini-games in all:

  1. Robo-Wrecker – A “whack-a-mole” game where you smash little robots around you by pushing and pulling the ring.
  2. Aerochute – A parachute workout that focuses on your upper body and core.
  3. Squat Goals – A game where you’re on a trampoline and need to jump (by squatting) to collect coins.
  4. Crate Crasher – Shoot off explosions by squeezing the Ring Con to destroy crates that are falling in front of you.
  5. Squattery Wheel – Squat and squeeze the ring to on a pottery wheel try to replicate a vase.
  6. Thigh Rider – Sit down and squeeze the Ring Con between your legs to steer a vehicle through an obstacle course.
  7. Bank Balance – Walk like you’re on a tightrope, leaning to collect coins and avoid bombs.
  8. Bootstrap Tower – Climb a tower by raising the Ring above your head and stretching it to jump.
  9. Core Crushing – Smash robots by holding the Ring Con against your abs and turning to hit the robots.
  10. Glutting Gallery – Hold the Ring Con above your head and lean left and right to avoid bombs and collect coins.
  11. Smack Back – Hit discs that robots are throwing at you by holding the Ring Con against your abs and twisting.
  12. Dreadmill – Run in place at just the right speed to collect coins, get out of the way of bombs shooting at you. Squeeze the Ring Con at just the right timing to collect coins that are higher up.

The game isn’t without the same kinds of annoyances that come with just about every other motion game in existence–the system will sometimes lose track of you, especially if you step out of the sensor range. But compared to the early years of the Wii, Kinect, and PS Move, they’re gotten it down pretty good.

If you’re been reading this blog since 2009, you’ll know that the one thing I look for above anything else in a fitness games is: is the gameplay so fun and immersive that I end up exercising without even realizing that I’m exercising? Happy to say that Ring Fit Adventure does that. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s going to necessarily kick off the video game fitness craze like Wii Fit did, but hopefully there’ll be enough interest that Nintendo will see fit to create other games that use the Ring. If you have a Switch already and are looking for a fun game to work out to, I’d say it’s a no-brainer.

If you don’t have a Nintendo Switch, this by itself may not be enough for you to get one, but on the other hand if you’ve been on the fence, this may just push you over.

The Future of VR Fitness – Oculus Quest 08.04.19

While I’ve loved using my PSVR for fitness, the one thing that’s gotten in the way (literally) are the wires, wires, wires. I can’t count how many plants, lamps, and cats I’ve knocked over while jumping out of the way of bullets in SuperHot or getting tangled with my VirZOOM bike.

In September 2018, Facebook announced a new VR headset called Oculus Quest. What is game-changing (literally) is that this is completely wireless.

Oculus already released Oculus Go last year, but it was skimpy on memory and ran on an older generation chipset. This new model will give HTC Vive a run (literally) for its money, as for the first time in an Oculus headset it features positional tracking, in both the headset itself and in the handheld controllers. Even more impressive, all of the processing power and battery are built right into the headeset. That’s right, no need to buy a $2500 gaming computer or even a $600 gaming console in order to run the latest generation VR.

arrested development michael george lightsaber gifWhat this means is that unlike the current Oculus, Vive, and PSVR offerings, your workout will no longer be confined to a 5 foot by 5 foot space. You’ll be able to run to the privacy of your garage Michael George style to play Beat Saber or any other game you like.

Beat Saber, in fact, is one of the launch titles, as is SuperHot, Creed: Rise to Glory, VZFit, and many more of the games that have gotten given stellar reviews to on this blog.. So you’ll be able to use it for fitness out of the box.

Needless to say, when it launches we’ll be posting some of our first impressions here. Stay tuned!

Review of Sparc for PSVR 21.03.18

The PSVR doesn’t seem to be at a loss for racquet sports games. In November 2017 Holoball and Proton Pulse Plus came out. And then in August 2017, Sparc was released simultaneously for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the PSVR. Outside of a few tutorial and training mini-games, the entire game is played online (meaning that PSVR users need a Playstation Plus subscription).

The developers made the decision that your opponents would be real humans, so they didn’t provide the option of playing against an AI. In fact, they go so far as to not call it a “video game” but rather a “virtual sport – a unique physical sport only possible in virtual reality”.  While this probably saved them some development time, it’s a risky choice. It’s seven months since the launch, and there are some scattered reports of servers being down or users not being able to find opponents for long periods of time. My own experience has been hit or miss. At certain times of the day I’ll be waiting in an empty lobby for 10-15 minutes before someone joins. But other times of the day I get matched up right away. The dilemma of having to find opponents is largely helped by the fact that you can play against opponents on any VR platform, a welcome development that I hope continues.

The best way to describe Sparc is that it’s sort of a combination of racquetball, handball, and dodgeball. The rules are a little quirky, so you definitely do need to go through the tutorial a few times to get it. To summarize:

  • You and your opponent are standing at opposite ends of a court. One of you has a blue ball, the other an orange one. You pick up the ball by grabbing it with your hand and pressing the trigger button.
  • You hurl your ball at your opponent by releasing the trigger button as you make a throwing motion with your arm. They’ll hurl their ball at you. If your opponent gets hit by either ball at any time, you’ll get one point.  If either ball hits you, your opponent gets one point. The player with the most points after three minutes wins.
  • If your ball doesn’t hit your opponent it’ll come back to you. If it first bounces behind your opponent’s wall in an area marked as the “strike zone” it’ll come back to you bigger and faster.
  • Once you catch your own ball, it becomes a “shield” that you can use as a racquet to block your opponent’s balls and hit it back. Or you can simply throw it and it’ll become your own ball again.
  • Ultimately as you get more advanced in the game you’ll start devising ways to strategize against your opponent, for example by deflecting your ball off walls at odd angles or by trying to confuse your opponent by throwing your ball at the same time you’re deflecting their own ball back at them.
  • You can dodge out of the way of balls, although your playing space is limited to only about 2 feet to your left and right.
  • If you’re playing in beginner mode, your fists can also be used to deflect your opponent’s balls.

The controls are very intuitive, although some of the mechanics do require a bit of a learning curve. For example,  I eventually found that throwing in a backhand motion tends to get your ball moving much faster than attempting an overhead throw.

In the video you see here, I found myself getting beaten mercilessly by my opponent who quickly discovered my weakness–I was unable to deal with her bouncing balls up and down off the ceiling and floor. But in our re-match game I quickly adjusted by figuring out how to dodge them and throw her off by doing my own side-to-side bounces. Even though we were both obviously extreme rookies, being at comparable levels we managed to play some pretty competitive and exciting games.

There are two levels, Basic and Advanced, both with the same gameplay and rules and a few alterations to let players compete with or without assistance.

Once you select a level, you’ll ostensibly be matched with someone at your skill level to play again. It was great whenever I was matched with someone of equal skill, but more often than not I’d be matched up with a seasoned player who’d wallop me in a shutout. I wish the developers would have done something to ensure that matches were even–the current system leaves it much too open for Advanced players to come into the Basic queue to bully new players, and I’m sure it’s frustrating for players of moderate-to-advanced skill to have to deal with other players who are just learning the game.

I love the details of the game. You can customize your avatar to some extent, and then during the game it mirrors your physical movements exactly, from your throwing and blocking motions right down to body language so you start to get a little bit of a sense of your opponent’s personality (or at least their humanity).  Every match won’t start until you give your opponent a virtual “fist bump”. As you’re waiting in the queue to start a match, you can be a spectator watching the current match take place in very cool miniature form. After each match, there are lots of stats you can view to savor a victory or look for areas of improvement after a loss. They put a lot of thought into every detail.

Can you get a great workout from Sparc? Absolutely! Your arms are constantly in motion, of course, but you’ll also be working out your core as you crouch and dodge out of the way of incoming balls. I found myself sweating after just two or three 3-minute matches.

My biggest gripe is the one I mentioned before; I wish they’d built an AI you could play rather than forcing you to go online and play human opponents–this would allow you to truly practice first before challenging a human. The mini-games are supposed to be like “batting cages” or “automatic ball launchers for tennis”, but they’re so far from the real game that they don’t really help you except in learning basic mechanics.

Another gripe is the reliance on PSN and online multiplayer. Granted, the cost isn’t something the developer could control, but as we’ve seen with other active motion games in the past, the typical player of Sparc isn’t going to be the hardcore gamer that tends to pay the fee for PSN every year, so ultimately I think this is going to hurt the game, especially among people like you and me who are less interested in play as a “competitive sport” as we are trying to get a workout. Again, the “solution” would have been for the developer to allow players without PSN to play against a bot, but all indications are that they’re not going that route.

All said, the game gets a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars from me. It’s clearly the best developed of all the “racquet sports” games for the PSVR, and you can get a solid workout from it. If you have a PSN account and a lot of patience to practice and get good at the “sport”, there aren’t many better motivators than real human players to get you playing again and again.



Review of Knockout League for PSVR 10.03.18

VirZOOM is the best fitness game for working out your lower body–everything from your thighs (quadriceps) to the back of your legs (hamstrings) to your hips (flexors) to your butt (gluteals), as well as your abs. But what to do if you want to work out your upper body? Here’s the game for that.

If you’re old like me, you can remember when an arcade game called Punch-Out!! came out in the mid-80s, followed by a port of the game to the Nintendo Entertainment System. It had you fight against round after round of interesting characters, each with their own signature moves to figure out. In 2001, Konami released Mocap Boxing for arcades; a game where you held two boxing glove controllers and the image on screen punched and bobbed and weaved with you. In 2006, the Wii was released along with Wii Sports and its addictive boxing game. Microsoft and Sony followed with Kinect Sports Boxing and The Fight: Lights Out in 2010.

The Fight: Lights Out and Sports Champions 2 by Sony had been the closest video gaming came to real boxing, especially when you played the games in 3D. But Knockout League for PSVR takes video game boxing to an entirely new level.

When you start up the game, you see a message: “This is an active game. Please make sure that your play space is clear. Stay in the center of the cleared play area and do not walk around.” This was great news for me, as I’m playing in a tiny space, so if I were to move a few inches to the right, I’d likely punch a hole in the wall, and a few inches forward and I’d punch that same hole in my TV screen. To meet the minimum space requirements for Knockout League, you need to be standing 6-8 feet away from your TV, and being able to stretch out your arms and move them around without hitting anything or knocking anything over. At first I was concerned that I wouldn’t get as good a workout if I couldn’t use move around, but that concern went away very quickly.

The opening scene has you in a gym that’s both cartoony and realistic, like a Pixar movie. You can look all around the gym and see trash cans, bulletin boards, water bottles, weights, trophy cabinets, shelves, posters, and mats, with florescent lights above just like a real gym. Your hands turn into boxing gloves, where you can examine them close up down to the laces (okay, I still geek out over just exploring VR worlds…I’m sure my grandkids will look at me like we look at those people in the 1800’s who spent hours looking in amazement at movies of horses running).

You select “New Game” and then you’re asked to enter your height (presumably for the game to get your play area right) and optionally, your weight (for the game to track your calories burned). You then set a name–you get to choose from a pre-determined adjective or honorific (big, little, mr., etc.) and a noun (rebel, princess, lightning, etc.). I suppose this is their way of making sure online leaderboards never have naughty words.

Next, you see a message saying “Get Ready“, with blue arrows of increasing size on the floor leading to you, and a green circle under your feet. This is where you need to double-check if you’re comfortably away from walls and furniture–the green spot marks the place you’ll be standing throughout the game. If you want to change positions, you can select ADJUST.

Next, you find yourself inside a boxing ring face to face (and I mean face to face) with your trainer, “Doug Johnson, the greatest fighter in the history of the Knockout League”. The developers (thankfully) decided not to go down the road of The Fight: Lights Out, which took themselves a little too seriously but it all came undone when you saw the image of tough guy Danny Trejo holding two magic wands. Knockout League channeled Punch-Out!! by creating characters that are over-the-top caricatures, each with their own signature boxing moves and styles.

Your trainer is reminiscent of every boxing trainer you’ve seen in the movies. He’s tough on the outside, but you know he has a heart of gold (and if you peer closely into his mouth, teeth and perhaps a tongue of gold as well). You start out with some tutorial sessions where he teaches you the basics of punching, blocking, and dodging. The mechanics and simple–to punch, you simply throw your punches like you’re really boxing. To block, you need to hold your gloves in front of your face–but the gloves will glow blue, and then quickly turn pink, and then back to normal. You need to time it so that your opponent’s punch hits your gloves when they’re blue. To dodge, you just move your move out of the way of the punch.

It took me a while to get used to it, but I realized it was because I was trying to play “video game boxing” instead of thinking like a real boxer. Once I got more comfortable with the three-dimensional space, I found myself playing more effectively.

There are several rounds of tutorials and training, but you can go right to the fighting as well. Before you fight, there’s one last “Tip From Doug”: “Dodge or block attacks to create openings for your punches, but NEVER chase after your opponent if they stumble backwards“. This is where you need to block your instinct to chase after your opponent.

You start off in a room where you can see pictures of your next three opponents and watch “films” that talk about them (on a wide movie theater screen, no less). You’ll also see your current opponent’s name, the number of wins you have against him, the best time, the fewest hits, and the best score. Press the red RIGHT button to continue.

Your opponent comes face to face (and I mean face-to-face) with you. You can see your and your opponents health indicator in the corner.

As with Punch-Out!!, you’ll find yourself facing quirky opponent after quirky opponent. Also similar to Punch-Out!!, you’re not really “boxing” as much as you’re finding repetitive patterns in your opponent, and strategically punching, blocking, and dodging at the right times (in fact, if you try to punch your opponent’s face without blocking first, you’ll be hard-pressed to land a thing).

Those who are expecting a Wii Sports-like “flail your arms wildly at your opponent until he goes down” will be disappointed, as are those who might be expecting a completely accurate boxing simulation. But IMO, it was brilliant of the game designers to go with a winning formula introduced with Punch-Out!! Once you start noticing mastering the whole idea of studying your opponent’s moments weaknesses and attacking them, and studying your opponent’s strengths and finding ways to counter them, the game becomes boatload of fun–and very addictive. Also similar to Punch-Out!!, your opponent starts to annoy you so much that you don’t want to stop until you can get the satisfaction of kicking the snot out of him.

There is a bit of a learning curve with the game. It took me a while to even get through the tutorial in one shot, and it took me about a dozen tries before I figured out how to beat the first opponent, Tri-Tip (the epiphany for me was when I realized I can literally duck UNDER an opponent’s punch–glancing out of the corner of my eye at his glove going over my body–and then counter with a barrage of punches. This is not your grandfather’s boxing game.

The video doesn’t do the VR justice. With your PSVR glasses on, you can look right into the eyes of your opponent where it seems like his face is only a couple inches from yours.

As for fitness, wow. Up to now, the most sweaty I’ve gotten on a PSVR game other than VirZOOM was SuperHOT, where it’d take me an hour of play to build up a sweat. With this game, within seconds my heart was pounding, my arms were sore, and I was perspiring profusely (and this on a wintry day outside with the ceiling fan going).

From the first video game I reviewed on this blog many years ago, I’ve said that the holy grail for video game exercise is having a game so fun that you don’t realize you’re exercising. Knockout League represents the pinnacle of that dream. This is as real an experience as you can get without actually having to have your head punched in over and over again.

Knockout League was developed by Grab Games and Vive Studios. I love the fact that they decided to release the game for all major VR platforms, and not just the HTC Vive. So everyone with a PSVR, HTC Vive, or Oculus can play it, and at less than $30 it’s a steal compared to much lower quality PSVR games being sold in stores.

Knockout Leagues easily gets a 5 out of 5 stars. If you enjoyed Punch-Out!! on the original NES, and if you’re looking for one of the best upper body video game workouts of all time, you are going to love it. PSVR owners can download it at the Playstation Store.

Fitness on the Playstation VR & Review of Playroom VR and Playstation Worlds 14.01.17

A few years ago when it was clear that Virtual Reality headsets were going to be a reality, I sensed that this would be the biggest (and maybe the last) opportunity for exergaming to make a “comeback” after it so dramatically burst on the scene and then disappeared back in the mid-2000s. As those of you who’ve followed this blog in any of its previous incarnations (Nutwiisystem.com, PS3Fitness.com, 3dPlaystation.net) know, the “holy grail” I’d been seeking for so many years was a active gaming experience on a console so immersive and compelling that “you got a workout without even realizing you were exercising”. We’ve come close over the years, with popular games like Just Dance for the Wii, Kung Fu for Kinect for the Xbox One, and Move Fitness for the PS3. But as fun as those games were and as captivating as the experiences became, you never quite forgot that you were in front of a TV as you tried to stay within the game console sensors.

So I’ve decided to be an early adopter to virtual reality technology. But that begged the question, do I choose an HTC Vive, an Oculus Rift, or a Playstation VR? In my last post on the subject I went through the rationale of why I was choosing the PSVR and the Playstation 4. The main reason came down to cost: it’d cost close to $2000 for me to buy a new high-end PC and an Oculus or Vive, when it’d be closer to $800 for me to get both a new PS4 and a PSVR.

But User-friendliness was another reason. I tried out the Vive at my brother-in-law’s place recently and I was impressed by the technology, but as with a lot of things in the PC gaming world, setting it up and using it just felt more involved and “technical” than I would have liked. While I’m a pretty technical person in my work life, in my leisure time, I really just prefer not to think too much to set up hardware and software. I just want to start using it. So that reinforced my decision to go with the PS4, as Sony has a lot more experience with “plug and play” than Oculus/Facebook or HTC.

Honestly, I hadn’t really been planning on getting a Playstation 4. There just aren’t enough hours in a day for me to play console games anymore. But with the potential of virtual reality for fitness, suddenly that equation changed. From a perspective of time, I wouldn’t be wasting time playing video games if that playing resulted in me working out and improving my health. And from a cost perspective, the cost would be comparable to buying an expensive piece of home exercise equipment or a gym membership–with the difference being that I’d actually use it.

So throwing caution to the wind, I bought a Playstation 4 Pro and a PSVR, knowing full well that there weren’t likely to be any mainstream game developers developing “active games” for them today. This is thanks largely to Microsoft. Remember when they tried to “force” all their users to the Kinect? There was a huge backlash from the gaming community, and most industry experts point to that as the moment that the Xbox One was forever doomed to lag behind the PS4–and that motion controls in gaming officially died. Not soon after that, Microsoft, Sony, and even Nintendo abandoned active games and motion controls.

While executives at Microsoft are probably still scratching their heads at why the Kinect failed, to me the answer has always been obvious. With the exception of Nintendo and maybe one or two independent developers out there like Virtual Air Guitar, most developers just didn’t “get it” when it came to motion controls. They lazily tried to develop video games the way they always did and slap the Kinect interface over them, essentially making motion controls just a proxy for button mashing on a controller.  The result was awkward experience after awkward experience.

In a signal that they didn’t “get this” either, a few months ago Sony put out a statement stressing that all PSVR games WOULD require Dualshock Controllers. Luckily there was a backlash the other way and they quickly backtracked and said that some PSVR games MAY NOT require Dualshock Controllers.

To Sony’s credit, something else they did was rather than tossing the Playstation Move (which had always been pretty good technology), they’ve decided made it part of the PSVR experience, to the point of including it in the launch bundle. I think this was prescient of them. While the marketing folks at Sony are clearly skittish, my prediction is that once people try out a few VR games, they will DEMAND motion controls. In other words, players of virtual reality games want to replicate “real” reality–and the reality is that most of us “move” when interacting with our world.

But we will probably have to wait a bit. Looking over the launch titles it looks like most games still depend heavily on the DualShock and/or your head movement to control things. And even games that do use the Move controllers seem to do so fairly passively–you use the Move controllers to pick up and examine objects, shoot a gun, and so on. So as far as the launch titles go, there doesn’t seem to be much as far as “PS4 fitness games” go as far as creating games that will get you sweating and your heart rate up.

But hopefully once enough people adopt the technology some independent developers will start to “get it” and develop native VR games that toss away old paradigms. Here’s hoping that someone, somewhere is working on games that’ll let you go boxing, hit a baseball, swing a tennis racket, and so on.

That said, I’m always scouring the Playstation Store online to see if there are any games that might fall into the category of an active game that’s good for a workout. If you hear of any PSVR games that sound like they might be good for exercise and workout (or if you’re a developer working on such a game), definitely let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to showcase it here.

Having said that, here are some of my first observations about the VR technology itself.

Playstation VR

To be honest, my first impressions of my new PS4 really weren’t much different than my old PS3. Granted, it has better better graphics (and still no 4K Blu-Ray…why, Sony, why?). But outwardly, it doesn’t seem too much different than the big black box that was the PS2 and the big black box that was the PS3.

On the other hand, the PSVR unit impressed me as soon as I unboxed it. I decided to go for the launch bundle.

psvr launch bundle box

Opening the box there were two other boxes, one holding the Playstation Worlds CD, the Move controllers, and the Playstation 4 Camera, and the other with the PSVR unit.

nice packaging

They clearly engineered the PSVR box not just to be utilitarian but also to be impressively designed a la Apple. The box is made of thick glossy cardboard, the top cover dramatically opens to reveal the contents (and stays propped open with a built-in strap), and inside you’ll find all the parts neatly organized in other boxes, underneath which is the VR headset itself. It was clearly designed to reflect a premium product.

nice packaging 2

It could have been an involved process getting it set up, but they made it easy by including a giant instruction manual with big, clear pictures for each step–literally devoting a page for each time you have to unplug or plug a cable.

psvr's simple instruction manual

Every included cable is even tagged with a large number tag, which is repeated on the outer box and in the manual. Clearly unlike HTC and Facebook, they intend to sell this to the masses and not just to techies. It’s really hard to mess this up.

numbered cables

The parts consist of the VR headset, a processor unit (controller box), an HDMI cable, a USB cable, an AC adaptor and power cord, a connection cable for the VR headset with two plugs on one end and two jacks on the other, and stereo headphones. If you bought the launch bundle you also got a Playstation 4 camera (required) and Move controllers (required for certain games).

psvr parts

They made installation pretty simple. All wires go into what they call the Processor Unit, which is the “brains” of the PSVR.

psvr processor box

It has ports for a power, a micro USB connection to the PS4, an HDMI connection to the PS4, an HDMI connection to your TV, and two jacks for you to plug in the cable to the PSVR headset.

To start, you basically need to unplug your HDMI cable from your PS4 and plug it into the VR box. You’ll plug a new HDMI cable from the box to your PS4. This allows video signals to be sent to the VR headset’s OLED display.

You also will need to plug your Playstation Camera into your PS4, if you haven’t already. This is not the same Playstation Camera for the PS3. It’s a unit with two lenses about the size of a large roll of Menthos that you put in front of your TV screen. You should also install your PS Move controllers if you haven’t already (these are the same that they sold for the PS3).

Finally, you plug the VR processor box’s power adapter into an AC outlet, and plug the VR headset to the VR processor box using a long cable they included.

The cable was the one thing I wasn’t crazy about with the PSVR–I like the fact that they made it long so you can sit plenty far from your TV, but the way the cable goes into the headset it always seems to get in your way when you try to put the headset on and off.

The headset consists of a bulky white headband holding bulky lenses that look like a cross between ski goggles and a Star Wars stormtrooper mask.

psvr headset

It took some getting used to getting it to fit properly on my head, but it’s pretty well engineered to accommodate just about any head size and shape.

You can expand the circumference of the headband to accommodate individuals of any head size by pressing a white button on the back and stretching it, or you can tighten it by rotating a round gear.

adjust head band on psvr

Similarly, by pressing a black button on the bottom, you can move the goggles closer to or away from your face to ensure a snug fit against your face.

adjust snugness

Between the cables, adjusting the top band for your head, and adjusting the snugness of the goggles to your eyes it takes a bit of effort to get your headset on. But after about 10 tries I finally was able to get it on and off pretty quickly. I wear glasses, but the goggles fit perfectly on top of them.

You then power on the PSVR unit by pressing the power button that’s on a small control unit on the long cable (which also includes volume control, a headphone jack, and a mute button). They wisely didn’t make all the buttons the same feel–the volume buttons stick out, while the power button is flush with the unit, so you don’t have to guess when you’ve got the glasses on and are pressing it.

When you look through the goggles, you’ll see the familiar Playstation 4 menu interface, clear as a bell (if it’s not clear, just shift the headset around a little until it fits snugly, you see a clear picture, and the black silicone flaps to your left and right are comfortable and properly blocking the outside light). From there, you’re no longer interacting in the real world but the virtual world.

One thing that disappointed me was that unlike the HTC Vive, which lets you press certain buttons to let you “scan” your real world surroundings while you’re wearing the VR goggles, with the PSVR you’re completely blind to the outside world. So before you put the glasses on, just make sure you’re far away from people, animals, and furniture.

You can navigate the menu by using the Dualshock controller. One thing I tried right away was opening Netflix. That was my first mind-blowing experience. Instead of watching a movie on a TV, you’re watching in on what feels like a big screen in a theater. Granted, the resolution of the glasses is not as fine as its competitors (the Vive and Oculus both have two 1200 x 1800 pixel OLED displays for a total of 2160 x 1200 pixels vs the PSVR which displays 960 x 1080 per eye using one 1920 x 1800 OLED display), but it makes up for it with a higher refresh rate (120Hz on the PSVR vs 90Hz on the Vive and Oculus). For a first generation product, I was impressed by the picture quality.

Playroom VR

When you purchase the PSVR, the only “free” game you get straight away is one you can download from the Playstation Store called Playroom VR. It offers five mini-games. None of them are really “active games”, but all of them do a fantastic job of showcasing the basics of virtual reality, as well as showcasing how VR doesn’t have to be a lonely one-person affair. Most of the games are party games where the developers incorporated multiplayer action into games, where one player is wearing the headset and using a Dualshock controller and up to four friends are interacting with the TV screen using additional Dualshock controllers.

Robots Rescue (1-4 players) – This is by far the best game of the lot, and the first one that elicited a real “whoa” reaction from me. 20 of your robot friends are being chased by evil “blocks” and are hiding throughout a virtual world. Your job is to seek them out.

What I love about the 3D effects are that they’re subtle and not in-your-face “look how cool VR is”. When you start the game, you look down at your hands and your Dualshock controller is transformed into a brand new robot-catching controller. When you find a robot, your robot “boots” it and it goes flying right into your controller and waves happily back at you. As you walk along a cliff, you can peer over the edge and see way down over the edge (if you experience vertigo or acrophobia the effect may be a little too real for you). And of course, you can explore your world left, right, up, down, backwards, and forward. This is the one game of the lot that can be played solo (although if you want to catch all 20 robots you will need help from a player on the TV).

Cat and Mouse (2-4 players) – The main player using the headset is a “cat” hiding behind a curtain, while the other players watching the TV are mice trying to collect cheese without the cat seeing them whenever the curtain opens.

Monster Escape (2-4 players) – The main player is a “sea monster” that uses his head to destroy buildings, knock down helicopters, and attempt to hit the TV players running away. The TV players run away and pick up debris to throw at the monster a la dodgeball.

Sea Monster – VR View

Sea Monster – Console View

Wanted (2-∞ players) – The VR player is a sheriff in a Wild West setting attempting to shoot bandits, but with no idea who the bandit is. The players watching the TV see the bandit and have to describe different features so the VR player can identify him.

Wanted – VR View

Wanted – Console View

Ghost House (1+ players) – There was a rather ingenious game for the Wii called Wii Play Motion that used sounds and vibrations on the Wii controller to let players “hunt” for ghosts around the real room. This game brings that idea to fruition by letting the VR player literally look around the room to follow the ghost around.

Ghost House - VR View

Playstation Worlds

If you bought the launch bundle of the PSVR, you also got a game called Playstation Worlds. This game can also be purchased separately for a retail price of $59.99, but honestly, they should have included it free in every PSVR, because like Playroom VR, it’s really not much more than a set of relatively short technical demos.

I wish Sony would have learned the lesson from Nintendo and Wii Sports that in the long run they’ll make more money with new technology if they can convince users to adopt it first–and that sometimes means “giving away” enough to ensure that their first experiences with the technology will be amazing. But some number-cruncher at Sony obviously felt that they could make money off this by selling it separately.

As a standalone game, Playstation Worlds feels like it’s missing depth. But as a tech demo, it does a fabulous job of showcasing the potential of virtual reality beyond what Playroom VR could. Again, it consists of five standalone (and relatively short) experiences, all for single players wearing the VR headset.

The London Heist – Here, you find yourself locked in a dingy room with a big mean-looking British guy with muscles and tattoos hovering over you, apparently holding you hostage. It’s not a pleasant feeling, but that’s by design. There are a few gimmicky moments (such as when the guy points a gun at you, which is about as unsettling as it would be in real life), but for me, the “whoa” moment was when he puts some things on a table for you to interact with–a lighter, a cigar, and other mundane objects which you’ll gasp at how realistic they look. You can pick them up and examine them as if they were real objects, holding them close to your face and rotating them to view them in 360 degrees. The effect was stunningly realistic (and all the more realistic when you use the Move controllers).

From there, you embark on a few short adventures where you get into a shootout, a car chase, and other typical experiences. Perhaps because they knew that no one under 12 would be using the PSVR, they decided to make this game “M for mature”, which means real blood and gore and lots and lots of uses of the “F” word. Honestly, I found the game itself to be pretty gratuitous and contrived and the “storyline” weak, but of course the main purpose of it was to show off 3D, which it does stunningly well.

Ocean Descent – This is a passive experience where you’re in a cage underwater and the cage dives down into the deep sea. Not much to do here but watch and enjoy the scenery, which is pretty well done and I’m guessing pretty accurate as you dive into deep sea. I enjoyed not just viewing the sights outside, but also just the process of looking around and examining the detail of the cage I was in.

Scavengers Odyssey – Here, you fly a spaceship around shooting things, and then land on a planet, shooting things. Again, the thing I was most impressed with at first as just looking down at my chest and my lap and hands and seeing someone else’s body. But flying through the stars is also an exhilarating experience.

VR Luge – Remember a Playstation Move game called “Kung Fu Rider” where you glide down the road in an office chair? For the VR they went the slightly less silly route and have you glide down roads lying on your back on a skateboard. You steer by moving your head left and right and let “gravity” do the rest. This is by far the fastest action of all the games, and is served well by the PSVR’s quick refresh rate.

Danger Ball – This is essentially Pong in 3D. It plays a lot like racketball in that you’re in a square court and hitting a ball to try to get it past your competitor. You control the action by moving your head up, down, left, and right. This is one where the Move controllers probably would have made more sense, but using your head works too.

Like I said, you won’t get much of a workout playing any of these games. Your heart rate might elevate a little at moments like when the British dude is pointing a gun at your head, and you may have a sore neck after playing too much Danger Ball, but that’s not going to help you lose weight.

That said, despite Playstation Worlds being sold as a standalone game, I’d consider both Playroom VR and Playstation Worlds as very polished tech demos that do a great job of showcasing the potential of VR.

But again, as far as exercise and working out, of course neither of these games do that. But I’ll be following up this post with exciting news on what I consider the killer app for virtual reality and fitness. Stay tuned.

Review of Pokemon Go for Apple Watch (and troubleshooting tips) 08.01.17

pokemon go icon

The surprising truth I found was that the Apple Watch version of Pokemon Go is an excellent complement to both the main Pokemon Go app on the iPhone, but also to the Pokemon Go Plus device.

The developers were wise in that they planned it all very carefully so that the app, the Go Plus, and the Watch app all contributed to the fun of the game experience, but all in slightly different ways and all in ways that you didn’t feel like you were missing anything if you didn’t have any given device, but enjoyed the game all the more if you did.

Put another way, they didn’t attempt to make all three do the same thing (for example, you can’t catch Pokemon on the Watch app), but rather understood what unique capabilities each device had and developed around that.

The best way I can describe the Apple Watch app is that it’s like a basic “workout app”, but in addition to tracking things like steps, distance, time, and calories, you’re also tracking Pokemon Go specific metrics, such as how many items you picked up during this workout and how much progress you’ve made towards hatching your eggs and walking your buddy.

The huge advantage the Watch app provides that you can’t get with the phone app or the Go Plus device is that it allows you to track your distance indoors. In other words,  the Watch app doesn’t use GPS to gauge your distance traveled, but rather uses your watch’s pedometer to measure your steps walked. So if you run on a treadmill indoors, now you’ll get “credit” for your workout. This is great news for my wife, as now I’ll have incentive not just to run errands outside our apartment complex, but also taking out the trash and carting large junk within the building–activities which previously would have earned me nothing in Pokemon Go.

And if you’re a long-time Nutwiisystem, PS3 Fitness, or Xbox Fitness fan, you can breathe new life into games where you move your hands like Wii Sports Boxing, Exerbeat, Walk It Out, Just Dance, The Fight: Lights Out, Kung Fu for Kinect, and all the other games we’ve grown to love so much over the years by getting Pokemon Go “credit” for playing them.

I should point out that reports out there have been mixed as to how much “credit” you really receive. I’ll provide more details in the FAQs below on how to maximize your chances of receiving full credit for all your workouts.

You don’t need to do anything to install Pokemon Go on your watch–if you have the app on your phone you’ll see the icon on your Watch’s app launcher.

pokemon go icon on apple watch

The app isn’t an “always on” type of app, but really designed to be used specifically in conjunction with workouts that have a discrete start and end. When you open the app you’ll see your name, your avatar’s face, your level, and the egg in your collection that’s the closest to incubating. You’ll also see a big green “Start” button. Click it to start tracking your steps.

opening screen of watchos pokemon go

From there, you’ll see a screen that lists the kilometers you’ve walked (again, this is based on your steps, not on the GPS), the elapsed time, and a toggle between the steps you’ve taken and the calories you’ve burned. You’ll also be able to see the nearby Pokemon, although as I mentioned above you won’t be able to catch them from the app–for that you’ll need to take out your phone or use a Pokemon Go Plus.

main screen of pokemon go app for apple watch

You have the option of getting alerted every time you pass a Pokestop or a new Pokemon. Unlike Pokemons, you can interact with a Pokestop by spinning it just like you do on your phone, and you’ll see the items you’ve collected.

spinning pokestop on apple watch

You can also see a screen that shows all the eggs you’re currently incubating and the progress you’ve made on each.

eggs on apple watch

When your workout is over you can scroll to the screen with a big red X. Once you do you’ll see a summary of your workout, including your total distance, total time elapsed, active calories burned, number of steps taken, and items you’ve collected from Pokestops during your workout.

workout over on apple watch

You can also install the Pokemon Go complication, which will show you a green workout icon if the app is tracking your steps in the background, as well as the progress towards your egg hatching.

The theory, the Watch App is fantastic and if it consistently worked 100% the way I’d expect it to, it’d easily get 5 out of 5 stars from me as a review. But as of right now, my experiences have been way too

In all honesty, my own experiences with the Apple Watch have been mixed, and looking at some of the comments on reddit and other forums, there are a lot of complaints about the watch app.

The first step in troubleshooting is to make sure of a few things:

  1. Do you have the latest, most up-to-date version of the Pokemon Go app on your Apple Watch?
  2. Go to the “Health” app on your phone and then click “Sources”. Is Pokemon Go listed as one of them? If so, click in. Are all categories turned on?
  3. When you installed the game, did you allow permissions to always track location in the background and did you give full access to Motion & Fitness (if not, either uninstall and reinstall the apps or go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and Settings > Privacy > Motion & Fitness)

If you’ve confirmed this, I’ve compiled a list of Q&As that may help you in further troubleshooting.

Why do I keep getting the message “Open Pokemon GO on your iPhone” on my Watch app?

If you keep getting this annoying screen…

open pokemon go on your iphone

is your phone connected to your apple watch via bluetooth…your watch and your iPhone may have lost its Bluetooth connection. To check your connection, go to the watch face (your clock screen) and swipe up. On the top of the screen should you should see the word “Connected” in green and a small green phone icon to the right. In some cases, this will happen because you put the phone on airplane mode or you walked too far from your phone.

It’s also possible that your phone lost its Internet connection. It might take a little longer, but you can see the same result.

One annoyance is that I’ve found that even when the Bluetooth or Internet connection is lost even temporary (even for a split second such as when your phone switches between Wifi and cellular data or your phone’s Bluetooth hiccups), the entire app will reset. This can get really, really annoying, especially since you typically lose whatever progress in terms of steps and kilometers you’ve made on your watch that hasn’t been “credited” to your buddy or your egg.

Why does the Watch app keep quitting (either showing me the Summary of my completed workout, even though I didn’t tell it to stop, or just going back to the Start screen with all my progress reset?
blank pokemon go on apple watch

Another annoyance occurs when you’re working out and suddenly the app seems to reset. In some cases it blanks out (such as the screen to your right), and in other cases it’ll show a Summary of your “completed” workout even though you didn’t ask it to complete.

Again, likely that either your Bluetooth or your Internet connection got interrupted, even for a moment. Sometimes when you re-establish your connections things will come back, but worst case scenario you’ll need to reset everything and start from scratch.

To do that, try force-closing the Pokemon Go app on your phone (double-click the home button and swipe the Pokemon Go app up), force-closing the app on your watch (with the Pokemon Go app open, press and hold the power button until “Power Off” appears, and then press and hold the digital crown until you get to the main screen). Double-check that you have a steady Bluetooth and Internet connection. Then, open the iPhone app first, let it load all the way, and open the app on your watch. When you press the green “Start” Button again you should see your buddy and egg.

If you start seeing this happen a lot, you may need to take more drastic measures. Visit this Help page on Apple and scroll down to “Unpair your devices, then pair them again” section.

I have eggs incubating on my phone, and yet when I go to the egg screen I see “Start Egg Incubation on your iPhone” and the egg icon on the Watch app is greyed out
start egg incubation on your iphoneAgain, this is likely due to a break that happened in your Internet connection. The good news is that you haven’t lost any eggs–they’re still intact on your phone. The bad news, again, is that whatever workout you’ve done to that point on the watch is probably lost.
I find myself glancing at my watch from time to time just to make sure my connection is still active and the app is still tracking my steps, an annoyance to be sure, but a necessary one at this point until they make the app a little more stable.
The best thing, of course, is to make sure you have a strong, steady Internet connection that isn’t easily broken, even for a split second.

Why do I seem to get credit for steps, but they don’t get transferred to my buddy or my egg?

This one is probably the most frustrating about this app. I’ve found that results are really, really inconsistent. In my testing, there are times my egg and buddy distances update almost immediately and accurately, but other times the step counter will report multiple kilometers walked, but only a fraction will be reflected in the egg and buddy distances.

With the annoyances of the app not dealing will with lost connections, crashes, and the inconsistencies in distance tracking, for now I’d drop my rating of the Apple Watch app to about a 3/5. I’ll still plan on wearing it, especially when indoors, but I’ll make a point to set my expectation very, very low. Hopefully Niantic is working on shoring up the app, because like I said it’s a great concept that just needs to be executed better.

What’s the difference between Pokemon Go app for the Apple Watch and the Pokemon Go Plus handheld device?

Here’s a chart that lays out the differences between the two:

Pokemon Go for Apple Watch Pokemon Go Plus
Best use Workouts, indoor or outdoor Walking outdoors or driving/biking under 20 MPH
Does Pokemon GO on iPhone need to be on? Yes, at least when starting and ending workouts. No (although certain apps such as Candy Crush or Camera will prevent Pokemon Go from running in the background)
Notifies you of nearby Pokestops? Yes Yes
Notifies you of nearby Pokemon? Yes Yes
Identifies nearby Pokemon? Yes No
Allows you to spin nearby Pokestops? Yes Yes
Allows you to catch nearby Pokemon? No Yes (only one regular Pokeball throw)
Tracks distance using Steps Phone GPS
Key benefit to egg and buddy distance calculation: At least partially credits you with steps taken indoors (e.g. on a treadmill) Allows you to use other apps on your phone while tracking distance happens in the background


Thoughts on Pokemon Go as a Fitness Game 07.01.17

It’s been a while since I posted to the blog, and that’s sadly because the world of exergaming has largely been stagnant. The Wii is long gone. Microsoft’s and Sony’s attempts to mimic the success of motion gaming with the Kinect and the Playstation Move fell woefully short (despite huge investments in concepts like Xbox Fitness). And with the lack of motion games on the Wii U and the upcoming Nintendo Switch (as well as the demise of concepts that Satoru Iwata championed such as Quality of Life initiatives), it looks like none of the major console companies will be doing much further with motion gaming.

Smartphones have largely taken over the vacuum of casual gaming, and in turn exergaming applications. We’ve reviewed a lot of the top games for iOS and Android here, but most of them have largely remained relatively obscure.  The one exception is Pokemon GO. According to Apple, Pokemon GO was the top downloaded app on the Apple Store in 2016. Granted, most of the users who downloaded it have either pretty much stopped playing, or only open it upon occasion. But there are still enough players out there to be making the good folks at Niantic a lot of money (it’s been estimated that they’re still pulling in somewhere between $1.5 million and $3.5 million a day).

As I’d mentioned in an earlier post, as a Gen X’er I never played nor even understood the Pokemon craze. I used to roll my eyes at kids at church when they’d break out their decks of cards and be able to recite the stats of every pocket monster. So when the game came out last July I didn’t really expect I’d become a fan, much less an obsessed player. I figured I’d download the game, review it on the blog, and then toss it aside.

But from the time I caught my first Squirtle in my living room, I knew this was something different. And pretty soon, I found myself starting to change my habits because of this game. I work in New York City, and instead of taking the subway to work every day, I’d walk the 20-30 minutes (my walk happens to pass through both Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center, two hotspots for finding rare Pokemon), even on days when it’d rain or be too cold. I’d keep the app open at my desk the whole day and from time to time when a rare Snorlax or a Dratini would spawn, I’d jump out of my chair and run outside to find it. On nice days during my lunch hour instead of sitting at my desk, I’d sometimes walk the 10 blocks uptown to Grand Army Plaza outside of Central Park (a fabled Pokemon hunting location). I’d find myself walking completely out of my way or taking new routes just to hatch eggs or track down rare spawns.

It even helped my home life. In the past too often when I’d come home I’d be so exhausted that I’d just want to flop down on the sofa and veg. But now when my wife wants to walk or wants me to run an errand, I’m happy to go (she’s accepted the fact that I’m going to be playing the game, while I’ve done my part to minimize my distraction and “be there” as much as I can through the use of the Go Plus and Apple Watch–see below).

full north american pokedexOn October 4, I’d basically “finished” the game by finally “catching ’em all”; I got all 142 Pokemon that you could catch in North America. In December I added a “Farfetch’d” on a trip to Taiwan (no trips to Europe or Australia planned yet as you can see by the lack of a Mr. Mime or Kanghastan in the Pokedex to the right, but hopefully one day).

I was expecting the game to get old then, but the funny thing is it didn’t. Aside from catching Pokemon, the other part of Pokemon GO involves fighting in gyms. And that requires building up your top Pokemon (which as of now include Dragonites, Snorlaxes, Rhydons, and Vaporeons) to have high enough combat power (CP) to occupy the best spots in your local gyms, as well as building up an assortment of all the best Pokemon to fight battles and train. Which means continuing to catch a variety of Pokemon with specific moves, and also catching as many as possible to collect more and more stardust and candy.

For all the problems and annoyances with the game (and there are a lot of them–the game constantly crashes when I’m in a gym fight; there’s sometimes a blank map when the app encounters GPS problems; the UI for choosing Pokemon for training fights is annoyingly cumbersome; the app makes accidental purchases too easy), I have to say that Niantic on the whole has done a nice job making improvements to keep the game fresh.

During Halloween 2016, they doubled the candies you can earn and increased the number of certain Pokemon. During Thanksgiving 2016 they doubled the amount of XP and Stardust you can earn. Around this time they introduced Ditto to the game. And during Christmas 2016, they increased the number of Starter Pokemon in the wild, introduced a special Pikachu wearing a Santa hat, introduced baby Pokemons that hatch through eggs, including Pichu (baby Pikachu), Cleffa (baby Clefairy), Igglybuff (baby Jigglypuff), Togepi (baby Togetic, also introduced), Smoochum (baby Jynx), Elekid (baby Electabuzz), Magby (baby Magmar) and even gave out a free single-use incubator each day during the event. In the process they also revealed new slots for Gen 2 Pokemons, which will undoubtedly be released throughout 2017.

So why am I going on about this game on the blog? I can give you over 12,000 reasons: throughout the last six months I’ve easily averaged anywhere from 12,000 steps to 18,000 steps every day, up from my previous average of maybe 5,000 on a good day. And because my mind is occupied with the game during all those steps I don’t notice nor mind that I’m actually getting exercise. And believe it or not, that exercise has translated to my losing over 30 pounds since July.

Why is this game so much more effective than other exercise games or diets? There’s one simple explanation. It got me to change my behavior. Other games or diets may get you to change things temporarily, but more often than not once it’s over you revert to your previous patterns.

But not with this game. In fact, playing this silly little game has pretty much changed my life. I used to dread waking up and commuting into New York City (which can be as hellish as you’ve heard). But with this game, dare I say that I actually look forward to walking through the City, learning about new landmarks and history, exploring new paths every day, and getting that nice little dopamine rush every time I bag a rare new creature. And watching the pounds come off and being able to fit into clothes I hadn’t fit in 10 years feels really good.

I admit, even with Niantic’s improvements there have been times where I’ve started to get a bit bored of the game, but because of all the benefits of playing I’ve essentially “forced” myself to continue to have fun with the game and keep playing it. Aside from feeling great (I no longer get winded when I have to run to catch my morning train into the City), I’ve probably saved about $200 in subway fares over this time. That’s something that you can’t get with Candy Crush.

Something else that Niantic released during the last few weeks was support for the Apple Watch, something that had been promised during the Apple Watch 2 keynote way back in September. In my last post I wrote glowingly about the Pokemon Go Plus device (aggravatingly, Nintendo still hasn’t figured out how to keep them in stock, but at least the reseller prices on Amazon are around $50 instead of $200, which is a good indication that there there’s a lot more out there).

In my review I questioned the need for an Apple Watch app at all, as I couldn’t think of anything the Apple Watch app would do that the Pokemon Go Plus didn’t already take into account. But that all changed once I got one. More in the next post.

Review of Pokemon Go Plus Device – Play Pokemon Go without looking at your phone screen 15.09.16

Pokemon GO has pretty much changed my life, in even more ways than I’d mentioned when I wrote my initial review of the game back in July.

I work in Manhattan, and before this game came along I almost never walked the 16 blocks and 4 avenues from Penn Station to my office. But since I wrote that review in July, there’s hardly been a day I haven’t made that walk. Aside from saving $5.50 a day in subway fares, between my morning commute, my evening commute, and lunch I find myself walking between 5-7 miles a day now (often taking a long detour to try to “catch ’em all”), versus my old routine, which was usually walking about 5 minutes and taking the subway the rest of the way. What makes the walk go by so much faster is getting that nice dopamine hit every time I catch a new Pokemon or spin an especially lucrative PokeStop.

Still, playing the game in the crowded City can get a bit tough. I try my hardest not to be one of “those people”–those people who plant their faces in their phones playing the game oblivious to the people (and cars) around them. But even so, New York is the type of city where if you’re even slightly in the path of someone walking, some jerks will invariably go out of their way to elbow or bump you to “teach you a lesson”.

Pokemon GO Plus was released today. It’s a device that you can strap around your wrist, or more likely that you can surreptitiously hold in your pocket so that no one is the wiser that you’re playing. It uses Bluetooth to communicate with your phone. As long as you have the latest version of the app installed, the app will recognize it.

One of the nice things about where I work is that it’s about a three minute walk to the Nintendo World store in Rockefeller Center, so after reading Nintendo Store’s Tweet last night that they’d be in stock I decided to get into the City a little earlier to see if I could snag one of the early ones.

If the past is any indication with Nintendo hardware, for a short period of time they’re going to be difficult to get (currently they’re selling on eBay for double to triple the $35 list price), but don’t worry–in a few weeks they’ll be all over the place.

I got there a little over an hour before the store opened and was #22 on line.

outside nintendo world store

We were all a bit surprised at how short the line was, but guessed a few things contributed to it–first, the hype over Pokemon GO is much less than it was in July, and second, a lot of “early adopter” types were likely up the street waiting for their iPhone 7s at the Apple Store.

Not surprisingly the two PokeStops around the store were lured up, which made the wait bearable. A Blastoise appeared at one point, which sadly I didn’t get even after three Razz Berries, three Ultra Balls, and two “Great” curveballs. 😛

The hour actually passed pretty quickly, as the folks with me on line were all really nice and interesting folks. It’s funny how this game is able to bring together so many different people.

By 8:30 the line had grown pretty large.

long line for pokemon go plus launch

Finally, 9:03 came and they opened the doors. Kudos to the Nintendo World folks for keeping the line very orderly–there was no mad rush or pushing, just an orderly queue.

line for pokemon go plus launch

I got that little adrenaline rush when I knew I had mine (again, knowing full well that in a few weeks these things will be as worthless as Wii Fit Meters). I saw that they had about 100 units stacked up in the back, so hopefully everyone on line got one.

Back at the office I did the unboxing. Here’s what the box looks like:

pokemon go plus box

And here’s what you get inside.

contents of pokemon go plus package

The hardware itself is a Pokemon Go Plus device about the size of a quarter and about 1/4 inch thick. It’s made of solid plastic that’s brightly colored to look like a regular red ball. It comes with an additional wristband in the default red, white, and blue colors.

pokemon go plus device and wrist strap

The unit itself comes attached with a solid plastic clip attached you can attach to your pocket or belt. There’s also a little hole to attach to a strap if you want to wear it around your neck.

pokemon go plus belt buckle clip

Very important–if you want to use the wristband, you’ll need to unscrew the ENTIRE back of the device before you snap it onto the wristband. (I can only imagine that certain point who don’t read the manual are going to try to forceably “snap” the belt clip off, which would be a problem).

To start using it, you just need to pull out the plastic tab to activate the battery.

removing the battery tab

Next, open the Pokemon GO app and click “Settings”. You’ll want to click on the menu option that says “Pokemon GO Plus”. Once you’re on the Pokemon GO plus screen, tap the button on your device. Your device should flash and your should see your device show up under “Available Devices” in the app (note that at this point it’s not yet paired to your phone via Bluetooth, just recognized by the app). If you encounter issues, make sure that Bluetooth is enabled on your phone.

settings screen on pokemon go for plus devie

Now, I could see a greyed-out icon on my screen, but the device still wasn’t doing anything.

pokemon go plus icon greyed out

I tapped the icon and saw the message “Finding Pokemon GO Plus…click the button on Pokemon GO Plus.”

finding pokemon go plus...click the button on the pokemon go plus

I clicked the button and this brought up an iOS “Bluetooth Pairing Request” prompt asking if I wanted to pair “Pokemon GO Plus” with my iPhone. I pressed “Pair”. You’ll only need to do this once.

bluetooth pairing of pokemon go plus

There were a series of messages telling me it was trying to connect. Finally I got the message “Successfully connected to Pokemon GO Plus”

successfully connected to pokemon go plus

From this point, you can start playing the game without looking at your phone screen, although your phone screen will still show you the status of what’s happening if you happen to look at it.

From time to time the GO Plus device will break the Bluetooth connection–if this happens the icon will go grey. To reactivate it, simply tap the icon and the device should be active again.

Now here’s how it works in action. First, here’s how capturing Pokemons work:

When you pass by a Pokemon, the device will emit six long vibrations and the light will flash green. On the screen there’ll be a message that says “Pokemon is in range!” and you’ll see a thin yellow line from the Pokemon GO Plus icon to the Pokemon it finds to let you know which one it’ll be going after.

What’s very interesting is that in some cases the device will discover a Pokemon even before you see in on your screen, like in the screenshot below. The converse is true too–sometimes you’ll be standing right on top of a Pokemon but the device won’t see it until you take a few steps. But most of the time what you see on the screen and what you experience on the device will match.

pokemon go plus encounters a pokemon in range

You can click the button any time during these six long vibrations to start the capture attempt. What happens behind the scenes is that the app will attempt to catch that Pokemon by throwing a single Regular Ball at it (it will not use Great Balls or Ultra Balls, even if you’re out of Regular Balls). You’ll feel three short vibrations, meant to simulate the three “shakes” of the Poke Ball animation you normally see on screen.

If it misses the Pokemon the device will emit two quick vibrations (think whaa-whaa like a sad trombone) and flash a red light. This happened to me on my first attempt–on the screen the message said “Pidgey ran away”.

pidgey ran away!

When you do catch something the device will vibrate five times of medium length while flashing celebratory multicolored lights. If you’re looking at your screen a message will flash telling you that you’ve captured it. You can also look at your Journal afterwards to see all the Pokemons and items from PokeStops you’ve collected–and missed.

Catch ratio is something you need to set expectations for. Aggravatingly, I had this Pidgey, a Gastly, and a Dugtrio all run away before I finally caught a Goldeen. After a day of playing with it I’d say my catch ratio has averaged about 30-50%. This is pretty much in line with what I’d get if I were playing on the phone trying to catch a Pokemon using only attempt and one Regular Ball with no curveball nor “Nice / Great / Excellent” throws.

And so by design you shouldn’t rely on this to catch rare of high powered Pokemons you might encounter (in these cases you’ll want to assume manual control by tapping on the GO Plus icon to toggle the device off or simply tapping on the Pokemon on your phone screen as normal to try a traditional attempt.

While the high miss rate might sound like an annoyance, I’ve concluded that it’s a fair trade-off, as clicking a button is much, much easier than taking out your phone, pressing the Pokemon, and swiping the ball over and over again. I actually appreciate how they put a lot of thought into the effort-reward calculation rather than just automatically letting people who paid for the device get 100% of the Pokemons every time. By doing it the way, they ensure that you’ll still play the way the game was intended to be played most of the time, but will be able to use the GO Plus device in situations where you simply can’t look at your phone but still want at least a chance to catch something, such as when you’re driving, biking, or jogging. I’ve started using it on paths where I know the chances are slim to see a rare Pokemon (and I deliberately don’t look at the Journal to see which ones I missed :P).

PokeStops are a bit more generous. When you pass by a PokeStop, the device will pulse twice (again up to six successive times) and the LED light will flash blue. On screen, you’ll see a line from the Plus icon to the PokeStop that you’ll be collecting items from.

collecting items from pokestop with pokemon go plus

Click on your device, and you’ll collect all the items at that Stop (the device will buzz for each item you’ve collected). You can see which items you’ve collected by looking at the screen immediately, or by checking the journal (or your inventory) later.

received items from pokestop using go plus

You do need to have the app open when using the device, but it can be running in the background as you use other apps. The only app I found on iOS that doesn’t let it run in the background is the Camera app. With any other app you’ll see a notification on the screen about your Pokemon catch attempts and your PokeStop items. In fact, the phone screen can even be locked and it’ll still work.

Even better news–it’ll continue to track your distance in both cases, meaning you’ll get “credit” for the distance to your Buddy Pokemon and your Eggs. In fact, I’ve found (and reports around the Web corroborate) that this device will actually improve the app’s tracking (which can be notoriously off).

For both PokeStops and Pokemons you catch you’ll get the normal amount of XP, candy, and stardust that you would if you were playing on your phone (note that as of this writing there’s a bug where you won’t see your stardust right away–rest assured it’s there, you just need to kill the app and restart it to see the extra stardust you collected). This is a great way to load up on the stardust, the one thing I never seem to have enough of. You won’t be able to catch Pokemons that spawn from incense, but you will be able to catch those that spawn from lures.

As far as power, the device uses the larger CR2032 watch battery (the one about the size of a nickel), but because it uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) you’re not going to be swapping out batteries very often, even with daily use. And when you do need to change batteries, you can generally find replacements on Amazon or eBay for pennies.

Overall, I’m very happy with this device, and can easily give it 5 of 5 stars–as with all other Nintendo devices like the Wii Fit Meter and the Gamecube Adapter, it’s really well made–it’s just a shame that Nintendo took two months to get it out; had they gotten in out in July the would have been able to print money.

But this is just the thing that’ll bring a lot of those who’d left the game back. It opens up new ways of being able to play the game that were impossible before–you can play while riding a bike, while navigating through a crowd of people pressing against each other, and even on a slow-to-moderate moving car, bus or train–all without the need to keep one’s nose buried in the phone screen. And since one of the conference rooms in my office is right over a PokeStop, it’ll let me quietly collect Pokemons during meetings without anyone being the wiser (in the past I’d need to pretend to be checking an important email or something). In fact, if you do happen sit over a PokeStop you would no longer need to check your phone constantly to see if a fresh lure has been dropped or that the 5 minute wait period to collect items is up–in either case your device will vibrate to let you know.

A lot of people ask if you need this if you’ll be getting the Pokemon GO app on the Apple Watch. I’d say yes–as convenient as the Watch app is, you’ll still need to look at it and swipe it. With this, you don’t need to look at your phone, your watch, or anything else. Just hold it in your hand, feel for the buzz, and you’re set.

Overall I highly recommend getting this if you’re anything between a casual and a fanatical Pokemon GO player. As with most hardware from Nintendo, it’s not just well-made, but will probably become a collector’s item in time. It may be tough to find, but keep checking Amazon or Gamestop or if you’re in NYC, try the Nintendo Store.

The lessons learned from previous experiences like the Wii, Wii Fit, the Wii U Gamecube Adapter, and other similar products is to NOT panic. If you can’t get it the first day, don’t fall into the temptation of buying it from someone on eBay who’s jacked up the prices to a ridiculous amount. It might be a few weeks, but they’ll come back in stock eventually at $34.99.

The Apple Watch Series 2 – The top 10 to know for fitness enthusiasts 08.09.16

Fastidious readers of this blog may remember that back when they announced the first Apple Watch two years ago I made myself a resolution to get one and to review it. That resolution sort of went by the wayside. I actually did get one at one point, but amid a fit of buyer’s remorse and some false rumors that they were going to release a new model imminently, I decided to return it never having opened it. I also learned my lesson from decades of buying Apple products to always wait for the Generation 2 model–this practice has served me well with my Apple //e (vs. the Apple ][ Plus), my Mac SE/30 (vs. the Mac Plus), my second-generation iPod, and my first iPhone 4.

Today, Tim Cook, in his usual imitation of Steve Jobs magniloquence, announced the Apple Watch Series 2. It looks like a winner. Here are some of the highlights from an exercise and fitness perspective.

  1. It’s water-resistant up to 50 meters. Yes, now you can dive into the pool wearing your Apple Watch, or even take a shower with it on. While the watch has always been good at tracking calories burned while running, as part of this Watch Apple has developed two swimming workouts which they say will accurately measure your calories burned while swimming. They’ve also designed the speaker hardware to repel water that gets into it.
  2. It’s faster. They’ve upgraded just about every part of the watch, from the CPU to the RAM to the storage, wireless speed, and motion control accuracy. They say that it’s going to be at least 2x faster than the first Apple Watch.
  3. It’s brighter. On those bright sunny days you won’t need to squint as much to see your watch face–the new display is at least 2x brighter than it was before.
  4. apple watch gpsIt has GPS. Unlike the old phone that depending on your iPhone for GPS (which helped run the battery down faster), this new watch will have GPS built-in, meaning that you can track your distance and route without being tethered to your phone or even needing to take your phone out on runs. Apple also claims that the watch’s GPS unit connects to satellites faster than most other devices. Also, Apple announced a hiking app called ViewRanger that will help prevent you from getting lost (assuming that the watch battery doesn’t give out before you do).
  5. nike+ apple watchApple and Nike+ have decided to work together. There’ll be a separate version of the Apple Watch called the Apple Watch Nike Plus which will have some bells and whistles that may be of  interest to runners. The watch will be in the Nike+ style of yellow and black. It’ll have a bold new interface that displays your distance and pace, as well as the current weather and the time since your last run.Nike will also introduce a new feature called “Just Do It Sundays” which will encourage everyone in the world (who has an Apple Watch Nike Plus) to run. Honestly, IMO the watch is a bit of an eyesore, and this all seems a bit more like marketing hype to me than anything particularly innovative, but if you’re a Nike+ fan already or were an avid user of the dearly departed FuelBand, it might be worth it to you to pay the premium to recapture some of that FuelBand magic that FitBit stole.
  6. pokemon go on apple watchWatchOS 3 is coming, and with it–Pokemon GO. I haven’t posted much about Pokemon GO since my review when it first came out, but I will post something in the coming weeks because frankly, it’s changed my life–for the better. According to my iPhone Health app, I’m averaging about 4.54 miles a day walking for the month–when before Pokemon GO came out I maybe averaged a mile a day.The Pokemon GO app will help you play the game without having your head buried in your phone. You’ll be able to see the number of steps you need to hatch an egg, tap and swipe on your watch to collect items from Pokestops, all without having the app on your phone open.
  7. heart rate on apple watchIt has an improved heart rate sensor. As you’re working out you’ll see your heart’s beats-per-minute and they’ll be captured on a graph for you. This will help you determine for any given workout if you’ve entered the so-called “aerobic zone” with a sustained elevated heartrate, and will also let you see the history of your workouts. It’ll also give a continuous history of your heartrate that can help you help your doctor get a more complete view of your health at your next checkup.
  8. apple watch activity ringsThe Activity Rings are back. As with the original Apple Watch, the Watch Series 2 will track all your movement during the day, whether walking, running to the train, at the gym, and yes, working out with your Wii. If you’ve been sitting too long or are behind in your exercise, you can get the Watch to give you a nudge to get you to stand, start moving, or do your daily exercise. What’s cool is that you don’t need to necessarily block out a full half hour to exercise every day–the Watch will tell you cumulatively how much exercise you’ve done all day.
  9. breathe appBreathe! At first I though this was just a bunch of hype, but something we all take for granted, especially as we go through stressful days, is our breathing patterns. This is something that Eastern workout regimens pay close attention to but Western ones seem to ignore. But when you think about it, proper breathing is a key to great exercise–and feeling better in general. Your body needs oxygen, and when you get into the habits of improper breathing (yes, there is such a thing), you can deplete your body of oxygen and make your whole body run less efficiently. This is something even more critical as you’re working out, when every part of your body needs oxygen. This is one I’m looking forward to trying.
  10. The news of the Apple Watch’s demise are greatly exagerrated. Tim Cook mentioned that Apple is now the #2 watch seller, just behind Rolex and in front of companies like Fossil. It’s honestly a bit of a misleading comparison–I don’t think too many people are buying a new Rolex every 2 years because the old one is outdated. Still, it’s a good reminder that Apple has managed to open up a whole new market for watches with Gen X and Gen Yers who haven’t worn a watch since they were kids or Millennials who have no idea what a watch is.

Unfortunately, the most anticipated thing on the Apple Watch Series 2 wishlist–a longer battery life–looks like it’s not happening. Apple didn’t even reference it in their announcement. While the Watch will have a bigger battery, whatever increased capacity will like be eaten up by the new GPS chip. So continue to plan for charging your Watch at least every 18 hours. Forget to plug it in one night before you go to bed, and you’re out of luck for your morning commute.

For my part, I’m going to live up to that promise I made two years ago and try to pre-order my watch on September 9. Whenever it comes, I’ll do the full unboxing here and take you through all the fitness capabilities.