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Me Lean Like Persian Prince, You Buff Like Conan: Part II
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posted by: Aaron Stanton
publisher: Powergrid Fitness
developer: Powergrid Fitness
date posted: 12:00 AM Thu May 27th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Thu May 27th, 2004

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Editor's Note: This article is Part II of a multi-part series on the kiloWatt exercise and gaming device from PowerGrid Fitness.

Be sure to start at the begining:
Part I:     Introduction
Part II:    E3 Hands-on (you're here)
Part III:   First Impressions
Part IV:   Final Review

About three weeks before E3, I sat down with a purpose. Summer was coming, and I was determined to eliminate the flab around my waste, to flatten my stomach, to make myself trim. I'd exercise. I'd be dedicated. I'd work my way towards the status of Greek god so that I could lie in the sun and polish my tan without the worry of causing long-term mental anguish to other beach goers. More importantly, I'd do it by playing games. What resulted from this line of reasoning was an article entitled, "Me Lean Like Persian Prince, You Buff Like Conan", in which I publicly declared my intention to review, and faithfully use, a new exercise machine/gaming controller from Powergrid Fitness, a company hoping to change how the world burns calories. Originally scheduled for a June release, I'd planned to be halfway into my project by July, ready to show up in my old hometown on the 4th sporting healthier, stronger muscles and a darker tone of skin.

I'd be graceful. I had dreams of wandering beside the lake in the moonlight, like the cover of some romance novel, laughing a deep baritone laugh, tossing my long hair and saying things like, Oh darling, how beautiful you are beneath the light of the fireworks,? in an English accent. I wasn't concerned that I have no talent for accents, or that my hair would have to be burned stiff in order to get it to lay flat; these were problems I could deal with. Once I had muscles, I figured, all the rest was going to bow before me. (No one could ever accuse me of having too high of expectations).

What I hadn't counted on was the release date being bumped to November. Suddenly, my summer fling was a holiday Christmas gift. I was in despair. Even if I had muscles then, no one would be able to tell under the many layers of deer and squirrel skins I would be wearing (I'm from Idaho). And a tan was out of the question; Idaho weather pretty much guarantees that exposing any skin during that time of year will result in it turning white and falling off.

Luckily, I was at E3, the perfect place to vent my rage. I woke up the morning of the 12th and immediately headed down to Kentia hall to share a piece of my mind with the people at the kiloWatt booth. Oh were they in for it. I was going to teach them to get my hopes up, I'd show them?

Somewhere about that point in my line of thought, I arrived at their booth and realized that all the employees working the PowerGrid Fitness booth were larger and more muscular than me. Being a smart fellow, I swallowed my pride and decided to take a look at the system I'd be getting come November (which, since they could all probably take me in a fight, really isn't all that far away). Congratulating myself on being a sensible guy, feeling like I had accomplished a goal by guaranteeing my survival to produce offspring, I sauntered over to one of the demo units.

I sniffed. I licked my lips.

It don't look so tough,? I said to the fellow there (who I later found out was Jason Grimm, Senior Product Manager at PowerGrid), and stepped behind the controller. He started the game and I breezed through it like butter. I was blowing things up like nothing else. I wasn't even breaking a sweat. Not?...so??tough?..,? I said, somewhat between breaths, just so they didn't feel bad that I was doing so well. Character??not??.moving?..though.?

It was about that point that I discovered the adjustability settings on the kiloWatt faceplate, and things started happening.


I went into E3 prefacing every conversation I had about the kiloWatt. If they did what I hope they did,? I'd say, then this is going to be really good.? When I actually got my hands on the unit, I realized that I could eliminate my condition. Not only could I feel it burning in my abs, arms, and legs, evidence that it was working, they had a solution for every problem I had questions about. In many cases, not only did they have a solution, they had better solutions than those I had come up with on my own.

After a little bit of hands-on time with the system, I came away with a number of impressions, some notes, and a quite a bit of excitement. More informed now than I have been in the past, I decided to write down an update or two in the interim between now and November, when we expect to see an actual production unit for review.

First off, PowerGrid Fitness now offers two versions of the kiloWatt: a $699 version for the home, and an $1199 Pro version aimed for public gyms with more demanding strength and sturdiness needs. What I was able to try out at E3 was the Pro model, and I can tell you that I was surprised by its size. Substantially larger than the original kiloWatt, the Pro has the footprint of a large exercise bike, even though the upper body of the machine is much less complex and should be easier to break down for storage than any bike you might be able to find. Stepping behind the wheel (so-to-speak), it quickly became evident that the kiloWatt legitimately does what it claims. Reading over the white paper report, terms like significantly increases? simply don't do the system justice. It's hard to translate what you read online to an actual workout, but I can assure you that your muscles will shake, and after fifteen minutes, you're going to feel a burn the next morning.

Besides myself, I brought two other GF writers, both of who lift and work out regularly, to give a more informed comparative analysis, and both agreed the system had a great deal of potential as a very legitimate exercise machine. The adjustability settings accommodated both their advanced skills, and my *cough* less than experienced attempts with equal grace.

The basic kiloWatt is sensitive up to 290 lbs of force, with the Pro topping out at 310 lbs. How that translates into actual use is easier to explain with an example. The kiloWatt has a display that tells you what percentage of maximum you are pushing. For example, if it reads 50%, then you are holding the control in a position equivalent to about half way in any given direction on the original thumb stick. So if you want to reproduce holding the thumb stick straight up in a game, you have to push up until that saturation meter reads 100%. Watching that number, we had one of the in-shape GF writers, who benches 275 lbs, exert every ounce of force he could for about 10 seconds. Even using his legs, he topped out at 40%.

Though I still wonder how easy it will be to aim with the left or right hand on an analog stick while using your body to move your character around (such as in Halo), it wasn't long before I felt comfortable turning corners and aiming guns as if I had been doing it for years. Simply by adding the physical element, it's my opinion that even mediocre games will become more interesting and satisfying as you strain to turn fast enough to destroy your enemy. Though it will have to wait until the full review later in the year, I'm pretty confident that the kiloWatt will function well as a controller in terms of ease and ability. I'm glad to say that it appears as if the designers truly took the time to incorporate elements of both a good exercise machine and a good controller, both equally well. The time I spent at the PowerGrid booth during E3 just added fuel to my desire to have one in my living room hooked up to my PS2, GameCube, or Xbox (the GameCube was added as a supported system since I wrote Part I).

Other technical complications are being addressed as well. The system will self-calibrate in order to prevent the drifting effect that sometimes plagues controllers after long-term use. More importantly, what analog stick the resistance rod controls can be adjusted axis by axis, which allows for a great deal of flexibility. For example, put both switches to the left, and the resistance rod acts as the left analog stick on the handheld controller. Both right assigns it in a similar way to the right. Put one switch left, though, and the other right, and you'll find that suddenly the resistance rod acts as the left analog stick for the x-axis, and as the right analog stick for the y-axis (or some combination there-of).

Peripherals (for the peripheral):

Being a relatively large system unto itself, the kiloWatts have a number of peripherals in development, the most notable being a wireless adapter that will free the system from its standard 10 foot cord. Other items, such as cable extensions for those of us who want more distance on a limited budget, will also be available.


Being able to play any game is great,? said Jason Grimm, PowerGrid's Senior Product Manager, tapping the stack of games he had beside the TV, but we want gamers to be able to have workout schedules too, so we're working on some other things as well.? On the top of that list is a virtual gym of mini-games designed to focus on different muscles. Imagine walking through the gym, and for each muscle group, there's a game that you can play to work out that part of your body. By the time you get done, you've had a pretty good workout.? Down the road, PowerGrid Fitness imagines a massively multiplayer online game designed specifically with the kiloWatt in mind, maximizing the benefits a player can get from using the kiloWatt on a regular basis. Ideally, the gameplay within such an online world would lead to a full-bodied and thorough workout. Such software would be a great compliment to any workout you might get from playing your favorite PS2, GameCube, Xbox, or PC game by itself.

With each additional detail I hear about the kiloWatt, I become more and more excited to have it in my home and easily accessible. I mean, sure, the Dance Dance Revolution game pad gets you moving to a beat, burns some calories, and has been teaching thousands of us nerds how to hop up and down in a confined rectangular space, but you're not going to be using it to blaze around Halo 2. The only system that's going to let you carry your exercise goals to any game on the market is the kiloWatt, and its obvious that PowerGrid Fitness has taken the time to make it a comfortable fit in the hands of both the hardcore gamer such as my current self, and my imaginary romance-novel self (who I somehow picture as having lost all ability to read, write, or spell). Not only will it serve well as an exercise machine, I have a suspicion that it will add flavor to a number of games I've either never been interested in, or have already beaten and shelved. Come November, when the unit is finally released and I have one of these babies to run through some serious trials, I'll launch into the true meat of this series, the review of the PowerGrid kiloWatt.

Before I sign off for today, though, I have one more unrelated note to make. At the end of the first Lean Like Persian Prince article, I made a joking reference to the gamer's tan?. Then, as I was driving to the airport to catch the plane to E3, I heard a radio add for a spray-on tan machine, much like a tanning bed, only designed for perfect spray-on tan application. If I weren't afraid of coming out looking like an Oompa Loompa, I'd give it a go. Give me enough time, and I'll figure out how to look fit, outdoorsy, and social without ever leaving the house.

Countinue to part III...