There is actually something that I felt with both Brain training and Wii Fit. That is, that they both enabled you to see and measure something you couldn’t before. And I think that this game also shares this quality with regards to the fun in seeing changes. And so then it felt very strange when we found the keyword “life rhythm” and became able to see what we couldn’t before. By the way, the Japanese title is “Walk and find out. Lifestyle Rhythm DS”, but why did you decide on this?
Well, first of all, life rhythm also lumps in things like what time you ate and how long you slept for.
The phrase life rhythm is fundamentally related to what time you get up and go to sleep and your three meals a day, isn’t it?
That’s right. Just by itself, walking isn’t determining your life rhythm. But though looking at your per minute step data over weeks or months from all kinds of angles, we thought it might help you become more aware of your life rhythm.
In other words, everybody has their own life rhythm and there is a part of it that they can find out about through walking.
That’s right. So then, to make it easier to learn about your lifestyle, we thought about it evaluating your average lifestyle pattern, like with a “brain age”, but we couldn’t’ get it to work. Everybody’s life rhythm is different after all, and it just ended up being pushy.
Then, we had a suggestion from the developers at Creatures and Engines13that when you are looking at your daily data it could compare you to an animal. For example, it could say “you are a morning koala type” and you could reflect that oh, come to mention it I was like a koala and didn’t move at all.
13 Creatures is a Japanese toy company established in 1995. Engines is a software development company established in 2005, with a core of members with 10-20 years in game development and other members with careers in 3D modelling, publishing, communication design and film production.
Also, through comparing you to animals it makes it easier to talk about it with your friends. Instead of being told “yesterday I walked 8000 steps”, what would you think if you were told “yesterday I was a night bat”?
You were off wandering around at night. (laughs)
Also, we’ve added “mini goals”. Every day a certain topic concerning your health is given out.
We got the idea for the mini goals from Creatures and Engines who supported the development of this project, and they thought of all kinds of ideas for us.
For example, really obvious goals like “Eat something you don’t like” or “Walk as much as you can using stairs” are presented, and we hope that with this you might become just a little bit more conscious of your life rhythm and your lifestyle may become just a little bit better.
Even if you don’t complete the mini goals it won’t evaluate you negatively at all. You just have to do a self evaluation, answering whether you completed them or not.
In other words, it is like a daily routine.
That’s right. It’s just like a daily routine. The Activity Meter is very compact so it isn’t a problem just to keep it in your pocket. That’s why I hope that people will keep it on them the whole time from when they wake up to when they go to bed, that it becomes a habit like brushing your teeth.
Why did you decide to sell the game with two of these Activity Meters?
One is for yourself and one is for your dog. (laughs)
Of course, it’s fine to use it for your family too! (laughs)
Akita-san, you really love dogs don’t you?
Yes. I have a miniature dachshund at home, but he really hates it when I try to make him wear clothes or anything. So back when the Activity Meter was still in cartridge format, I took it home to try out, but he didn’t like it at all…
He wouldn’t walk a single step, would he? Why did you think of measuring the number of steps a dog takes in the first place?
When this project first began, I thought about why people walk, and while I took the dog for a walk around the neighbourhood, I watched all the people who were walking. I saw that a lot of other people were taking their dogs for a walk too. So I thought it would be pretty amazing if people would attach the Activity Meter not just to themselves but also to their dogs.
That is pretty amazing. In terms of your business sense anyway! (laughs)
How was your dog after that?
The second Activity Meter that I made him wear was the one that I thought I had made pretty small, but even still he didn’t like it and refused to move. But when he wore the Activity Meter with the final design, not only did he not hate it he barely seemed to notice it. He would go for a walk as normal and play around with a ball while he was still wearing it. That’s why, when we met with not the first, but the second complete overturning of the tea table, I felt that you had to be joking, but now, I’m really truly grateful.
How do you attach it to the dog?
I’ve brought a picture of my dog here today so…
Ah look, he’s wearing it.
At first I thought about putting it in a bag, or attaching a strap and having it hang down, but it would swing about and not measure the number of steps accurately. So I decided to make this clip at short notice.
Just by changing the back cover you can add a clip to the Activity Meter.
The game will be sold with two Activity Meters so we will also be throwing in two of these purpose-built clips for no extra charge.
Once again the businessperson. (laughs)
I hope people will use this hook to attach it to their dog’s collar or harness.
Of course, there are also customers who don’t have dogs. And sometimes, especially in the case of women, they wear clothes without any pockets. In such cases, they could put it in their bag, but they would also be able to attach it somewhere with the clip.
I just hope that they will attach it to their dogs. (laughs)
You can easily talk about having a dog wear a pedometer, but their movements are bound to be different to those of a human, it must not have been easy to verify the step count.
And if it is a small dog they are always scampering around.
And they have 4 legs too.
So we had a discussion about whether it should count with the front paws or the back paws or with all 4 paws together, and in the end we decided to have it count with just the front legs. Then, in the end, with the cooperation of a local dog park we verified that it would count properly with each breed of dog. There were all kinds of dogs in the dog park, from big to small, and we attached the Activity Meter to 25 breeds of dogs and we filmed them while taking them for a walk. We took the video back to the company and replayed it in slow motion, making sure that the step count matched for each section.
I’m amazed, you didn’t cut any corners even for dogs.
That’s right. Of course, the validation for humans also involved a lot of people over some time. The development staff would put it in their bags and walk as fast as they could, or keep dashing up and down slopes! It was strange to see all those people wandering around with no purpose in the large development room. (laughs). To make sure that it counted correctly they were counting “one, two, three, four” while they were walking around, which just made it all the stranger. (laughs)
Like a middle school sports club. (laughs)
We drove around and around the company car park, and took lots of bus trips. After all kinds of validation experiments like that we established a reference value to prevent false positives. When you continue walking for about 10 seconds or more, the paces will be counted from the first step. This is to make it harder for false positives to occur from riding in cars and on buses. However, it means that small numbers of steps, such as when you are making dinner in the kitchen, won’t always be counted, but after a lot of thought, we thought that this specification would have the most accuracy for your lifestyle as a whole.
Since we had checked with my dog too, I definitely wanted to use the Activity Meter together with him. There are also some other interesting features. A feature called “Illuminate!” is included in the game which lets you know who it was in the family that took him for a walk afterwards.
In other words, there is a mode where your Mii will become happy if you walk together at the same time as someone else. You come back from your walk with the dog, and when the game collects the data, both yourself and the dog say ‘Synchro!’
That’s how you know who it was that took the dog for a walk, and when it synchronised I felt a strange sense of unity with my dog, it made me really happy.
Of course you don’t feel a sense of unity with just your dog. I often come home from work late at night, but when I got home one day and uploaded the data it synchronised with my wife at about one in the afternoon. I thought to myself, “Oh, when I was coming back from lunch she was off shopping. She really is alive at home while I am off at work.” And so I would think really fondly of her…
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