A Michigan State University  researcher's latest study shows that a cyber buddy can help exercise enthusiasts achieve that extra nudge they need during a workout.
The study is the first to indicate that although a human partner is still a better motivator during exercise, a software-generated partner also can be effective.
"We wanted to demonstrate that something that isn't real can still motivate people to give greater effort while exercising than if they had to do it by themselves," Deborah Feltz, a University Distinguished Professor in MSU's kinesiology department, who led the study with co-investigator Brian Winn, associate professor in MSU's College of Communication Arts and Sciences said.
The implications from the research also could open the door for software and video game companies to create cyber buddy programs based on sport psychology.
"Unlike many of the current game designs out there, these results could allow developers to create exercise platforms that incorporate team or partner dynamics that are based on science," Feltz said.
Using "CyBud-X ," an exercise game specifically developed for Feltz's research, 120 college-aged participants were given five different isometric plank exercises to do with one of three same-sex partner choices.
Along with a human partner option, two software-generated buddies were used - one representing what looked to be a nearly human partner and another that looked animated.
The participant and partner image were then projected onto a screen via a web camera while exercising.
The results showed that a significant motivational gain was observed in all partner conditions.
The study is published in the Games for Health Journal. (ANI )