Earlier today, Tao Wellness announced WellShell, an isometric exercise device that encourages you to build strength by squeezing it. What they didn't mention at the time is that the WellShell offers more than workouts and fitness tracking — it can also control video games. After pairing it with your phone or tablet using Bluetooth, you can squeeze the WellShell to perform basic navigation inside the game.
At CES, I used the WellShell to play a few rounds of the classic mobile game Jetpack Joyride. And while it's an unusual workout, it definitely got my heart rate up — keeping main character Barry Steakfries aloft required intense pressure and rapid adjustments. Tao founder Philo Northrup says that the company won't decide how to bring WellShell to market until after CES. It's already working on prototypes smaller that may cost less than the $200 to $300 that WellShell is estimated to cost at launch.
I also tried some more traditional exercises using WellShell, tracking my progress on a beta version of a companion app for Android. (An iOS version is in development as well.) WellShell works as advertised, but it never felt like much more than a novelty to me — squeezing a hunk of plastic over and over again loses its charm in a hurry. But as it develops, WellShell could find new ways to appeal to fitness buffs. In the meantime, I'll be playing Jetpack Joyride the old-fashioned way.