Adidas miCoach Unveiled at E3

By Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree

With the annual E3 video game convention underway this week in Los Angeles, adidas has taken the opportunity to announce its latest attempt to impact the fitness world. Partnering with worldwide video game publisher THQ, the global apparel and shoe brand held a media event at the Ritz Carlton at LA Live on Sunday night to roll out “adidas miCoach” a video game that will allow users to train with some of the best adidas athletes in the world.

Scheduled for release in early 2012, the interactive experience will feature adidas athletes from various sports, including Dwight Howard, Kaka, Tyson Gay, Jrue Holiday, Josh Smith, Jessica Ennis, Ana Ivanovic and Eric Berry. The athletes will help guide gamers through a wide selection of sport-specific personalized training programs, receiving real-time feedback on their actual in-game performance during their workouts when wearing a miCoach heart rate monitor. The miCoach hardware allows users to wirelessly synchronize to an Xbox 360 Kinect or PlayStation Move, incorporating workout data that is gathered during and while away from the game.

Howard was in attendance on Sunday evening as adidas and THQ held a live interactive demo for the media and adidas executives in attendance. Dressed in dark denim True Religion jeans, a plaid TR dress shirt and Gucci sneakers, Howard was in good spirits as he stepped onto the stage. He was joined by Martin Good, THQ’s Executive VP of Games, Simon Drabble, Director of miCoach for adidas and the game’s producer, David Sapienza.

Good began the demo with some opening remarks and stated that game will provide a complete interactive training system. “This is a serious athletic training tool for athletes and is also a great way for people who are just starting to learn about fitness, to bring out the most potential that they can,” he explained.

Drabble said that the goal of the game is to allow users to get the same type of coaching that professional athletes receive on a daily basis. He turned the discussion over to Howard who mentioned that many fans who contact him through his personal Twitter account, ask for workout tips. “They ask, ‘How do I get shoulders like you?’” Howard says. “We can now show these tips in this game, which is key. We’re showing some of these kids the tricks of the trade. Everything that you will see me do in the game, I do in the off-season to get stronger, become more explosive.”

Following a few remarks from Sapienza, an adidas employee was brought onto the stage and the live demo was underway. Dressed in adidas gear, he stood on a mat placed on stage. Dwight appeared on a screen inside the game, standing up with dumbbells in hand. As he performed the exercises in the game, the adidas employee from the crowd followed suit and his body and movements we’re beamed in behind Dwight on the screen. It wasn’t an avatar; you could tell by the movements that it was the guy pushing weight on the mat. It doesn’t appear to mimic the exact face of the user but it was a pretty cool look—almost like a futuristic interactive version of PX-90, but much cooler. “It’s not a virtual avatar,” Howard says. “It’s actually you and it’s so cool.”

By utilizing the advance video game console technology, users can create profiles, set fitness goals and get instant analysis of workout regimens. The game is still in development and what we saw was a very promising early look.

Following the demo, there was a press session in another room. Dozens of members of the gaming media and TV crews spoke to Howard about his love for video games. He said he likes to play Call of Duty, L.A. Noire and DiRT. He cracked jokes (asking a red-headed reporter from IGN if anyone has ever told him he looks just like Harry Potter) and was a big hit with the gaming community in attendance.  “We’re bringing fitness to a video game,” Howard explained. “Most kids want to play video games and they don’t want to workout or go outside, enjoy the fresh air. I don’t want kids to stop playing video games. I just want them to dedicate 45 minutes to an hour each day, training to try and make themselves better. And now they’re actually training with some of their favorite stars. It’s a great idea and I’m glad to be a part of it to help get kids in shape.”

While meeting with the media, Howard touched on a few non-gaming topics.

Regarding the praise he received from Shaq during his retirement press conference:

“It meant a lot. I’ve never had any ill will toward Shaq. He’s one of those guys that will never be forgotten. Everything he did on and off the court he loved. He tried to rap, did movies. He’s a basketball player and when we try to do something else like rap, people are like, ‘what are you doing?’ But he actually did a pretty good job with everything he put his hands on.”

A reporter from Fox Sports asked, “If I gave you a $1 for each time somebody asked you about your contract, you wouldn’t even have to sign a contract, right?”

“Oh, man. That would be like $5 million just for that. [Laughs]. Everybody on Twitter, when I’m walking around or at the movies, even my dog started talking to me. He was like, ‘Are you going to stay?’ And I’m like, ‘Not you!’ I kicked him out—but I brought him back in. Even he upset me by asking if I was going to stay. I said come on, man. You’re with me everyday. You’re my dog,” Howard joked.