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Bubble Drum exercise concept sounds healthy

By Mark Baard
May 16, 2011

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PROTOTYPES
When Jay Alan Jackson develops exer-games, one of his first aims is to do no harm.

Jackson’s Bubble Drum Project, for example — which provides a vigorous workout, while you play — is less likely to damage your hearing than a standard drum kit, or your wrists, as a set of inflexible digital drums might, he said.

That’s because the drum kit is made up entirely of rubber exercise balls of various sizes, which emit softer sounds and yield a bit with each strike from a hand, stick, or foot pedal.

Jackson this week will present his work with the Bubble Drum Kit at the Games for Health (www.gamesforhealth.org) conference in Boston

Attached to the balls with Velcro, iPods record (via their accelerometers) how hard and from which direction the drummer is hitting.

Jackson, a Rochester Institute of Technology information technology professor and a lifelong drummer, is working on a half-dozen games that emphasize timekeeping and keeping rhythm over matching notes on a screen, as many music video games require players to do.

Jackson likens the workout players get with the Bubble Drum kit (which he calls a “playable abstract sculpture’’) to that people get through other unstructured play, such as throwing a Frisbee or shooting hoops.

“The idea of scoring is a bit overrated,’’ Jackson said.

Jackson is also the guy behind a free iPhone app, Impulsive Pillow Pilates LE, that directs your movements on a balance training board as you listen to your own music. (The app remixes your music with the sounds of a shekere.)

Other speakers at the Games for Health conference will discuss the devices that doctors can attach to players of exer-games such as Jackson’s. Using that data, they can gauge their patients’ improvements in physical strength and cardiovascular health, for example.

APPS

From PBS Kids right to your tablet

It has taken me a while to catch on.

Now, however, I realize that when my children ask to use the computer, they are using the thing not to play games, but to watch their favorite television shows — on demand.

And this is one of my favorite rants: that the creators of content for personal computers and mobile devices are merely in the business of recreating a passive TV-viewing experience for consumers.

At least the PBS Kids Video for iPad App offers an alternative to shows like “Shake It Up,’’ the Disney Channel program that teaches kids they need to start worrying now about growing old and fat. (I kid you not.)

Kids can use the free app to stream episodes from “Sesame Street,’’ “Super Why,’’ “Sid the Science Kid,’’ “Dinosaur Train,’’ and other PBS shows.

The app also highlights a weekly pick of videos that encourage learning in reading, science, and math.

Mom and Dad can use the PBS Kids Video app to learn a bit more about the shows: when they are on, for example, and which age groups the programs are created for.

The app also allows you to share videos with others via e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.