Microsoft Patents the Exercise Guilt Trip

Microsoft's filed a patent that would make avatars more realistic and less idealized, with the point of getting your husky ass out to exercise if what you're seeing in the dashboard is a more realistic presentation of yourself.

"Avatar Individualized By Physical Characteristic," is what Microsoft is claiming. "Linking the avatar to a physical characteristic of a user provides leverage to provide incentives or constraints that can encourage good behavior (e.g., healthy behaviors, virtuous behaviors, etc.)," says the patent.

So therefore, if you're fat, your avatar will be fat - or vice versa. And so Microsoft proposes that your avatar's conditioning would be reflected in its capabilities within a game, or unlocking a budgeted amount of time to play, or just making the little guy look all buff and hawt.

As a parental control, its use is quite clear. For the individual gamer, it sounds to me like an opt-in thing, whereby if you've been feeling bad about all the Hot Pockets and three-hour gaming sessions, you turn on this feature. Sort of like fridge locks, noise reminders and other (in my opinion, abusive) gadgets from the dieting craze.

How is it going to know what the real you looks like? The patent offers that Microsoft would get the info through a "third-party health data collection repository," I guess to which the player belongs and links to his or her Xbox Live account. Or, says the filing "a real-time physiological sensor (e.g., blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, peak flow, pedometer, etc.)" Yay! Sounds like more peripherals.

1Up, which spotted the filing, points out that Nintendo's already explored this to some extent in Wii Fit, where your Mii gets porky if the game decides you're overweight. In this case, Microsoft wants to link some sort of tangible benefit to a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Those are honorable intentions, but given the butthurt that went up when Wii Fit started calling kids fat, I can't see this ending well. Just last night I screwed around with my avatar - which I always set to large size because, hey, I have a beer gut - and was appalled when I tried on the Vault 101 suit, which is not slimming at all. (My avatar normally wears an untucked golf shirt.) And that's with the existing body type templates. Before they do this Xbox Live should implement a "suck your gut in" button, like, click and hold the right thumbstick or something.

Microsoft Patents "Avatar Individualized By Physical Characteristic" System [1Up via HBG]