Driving a car is arguably not the healthiest form of transportation. Very restricted space for movement and a suboptimal sitting posture can, especially in long-distance commuters and professional drivers, lead to physical and mental suffering, such as physical fatigue. With the development of autonomous cars, which relieve drivers from the driving task and offer a much wider range of movements and incar interactions, new possibilities of physical exercises have emerged. To explore how to implement physical exercises into the car context, Sven Krome, Jussi Holopainen and Stefan Greuter developed an in-car fitness program AutoGym, which translates the traffic into an exertion game.
According to the researchers, AutoGym is aimed at improving the physical and mental consequences of long driving while also maintaining drivers’ situational awareness during autonomous driving. The prototype consists of a hand-operated exercise bike positioned at driver’s lap and a touchscreen tablet computer displaying the game interface. The exercise bike is linked to the car’s speed, making it harder to spin the wheel when the driving speed increases. When the car stops completely, the resistance of the bike is at its minimum, allowing the player to spin the wheel with little effort.
The objective of the game is to complete a whole exercise program, which consists of segments of different length, representing the amount of time the player has to complete it. The shorter the segment, the shorter time the player has to spin the exercise bike to complete the segment.
To successfully complete the whole exercise program, the driver has to pass three complementary steps. At first, the driver anticipates the driving situation and predicts how long the car stops or drives at a slow speed. Based on the prediction, they select a time segment, referring to the time they have to complete the segment. Finally, to complete the segment, they turn the exercise bike fast enough before the countdown of the time segment expires.
To assess the functionality of AutoGym, the developers conducted a laboratory simulator study with 28 participants. AutoGym was tested in an improved simulation setup based on a traffic clip recorder during rush-hour traffic in Melbourne. The record was played in sync with the speed data controlling the bike’s resistance.
The results of the study show that thanks to the physical connection of the player and the car facilitated through the exertion challenge, AutoGym increases the feeling of control over the car. The participants reported that AutoGym made them feel less out of control while being stuck in traffic. Moreover, the study shows that time and traffic were experienced as much faster while playing AutoGym. The participants also perceived the exertion challenge as a good activity to deal with frustrating situations.
To conclude, AutoGym shows that even frustrating stop-and-go traffic can be perceived as a fun experience, which can have, at the same time, a positive impact on drivers’ health.
The article AutoGym: An Exertion Game for Autonomous Driving by Sven Krome, Jussi Holopainen and Stefan Greuter was published at the Chi PLAY 2017 Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play and can be accessed via: http://st.sigchi.org/publications/toc/chi-play2017.html?fbclid=IwAR3g1iBbWWtHKylOouaDHDDNieRHsdvuIkqZbgEGv1U_Kn_e9XpzGPqe1Ag.
The pictures used in this article are from https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/.
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