When New York-based designer Alex S. found himself 40 pounds up from his grad school weight, he decided it was time to do something about it. But as he looked around for ways to take off the extra heft, he didn’t see any elegant solutions to weight loss. Heading to the gym isn’t his style, and health fads, like CrossFit and kale, were definitely out. “I wasn’t on a good trajectory, but you weren’t ever going to see me go to yoga,” he says. “It just seemed like the things people are doing these days to stay fit are just too extreme, and require too much time and money.”
Alex wanted an option that integrated more seamlessly into his life, so he decided to leverage something he was already obsessed with—gaming—to help him get back on track. In grad school, he’d spent so much time playing video games that it began to affect his school work and social life, forcing him to stop playing altogether. Maybe, he thought, if he hooked his Xbox up to his exercise bike, it could affect his waistline, too.
Enter the Cykill, Alex’s hybrid gaming/exercise system that cuts the power to his Xbox the second a he stops pedaling. To build it, Alex removed the interface on the top of his bike that displayed speed and other metrics, stripped the cables leading into it, and plugged them into an Arduino +. Then, he connected the Arduino to a power switch tail, a device that turns an AC power source off and on, and hooked it up to his Xbox. The Arduino circuit wasn’t the most beautiful, so he laser cut a display panel to sit on top. Pedal faster, and the lights on the panel go up; go too slowly or stop, and they’ll fall to frowny-face levels, before the whole system shuts off, and you lose your game entirely. He also built in knobs for duration and intensity, so that he could adjust how hard each workout should be before he got going. A switch at the center of the board starts each work out. Flip it, and the power switch tail triggers the Xbox to turn on, and it’s time to start pedaling.
On the back end, Alex wrote a small snippet of code in Arduino/C to enable communication between the bike’s interface, the LED lights, and the speed of the bike. The code ensures that the Xbox will only power on once a workout has been dialed and initialized, and also monitors bike speed, which is displayed on the main LED meter. The code can be found on GitHub.
The thought of losing a game might be high enough stakes for anyone to keep pedaling, but there’s another consequence Alex didn’t think of. A friend pointed out that if you kill power to a gaming device as it’s trying to write—aka, save your game—you could seriously damage your console. “It could lead to a hard drive corruption,” Alex says. “Your Xbox could be caput.” Peddle or perish, gamers.