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The Future of Children’s Mobile Fitness Apps. Nature Required!

The CES floor has changed in the past few years. There are now 1200 booths focused on wearable technology. The showstoppers are Activity Trackers and Virtual Reality. Are we moving towards healthy technology or will we lay dormant in a virtual world? Maybe wearable technology is being developed to track our lack of movement so we can stay healthy enough.

Facebook recently purchased Occulus Rift for $2 billion dollars. Occulas Rift is a VR – Virtual Reality (VR) headset. Its basically 2 LED screens built into a mask that covers the entire middle portion of your face. You really shouldn’t walk around with it on, and you’ll most likely end up as a vegetable on your comfy chair.

I remember playing some of the first 3D 1st Person Shooters in the days of Dos 3.1. We ran a piece of coax to each computer in our home of gamers. There was a fantastic game where you flew a spaceship inside a tunnel of 3D mazes and hunted down your opponent. I also remember almost driving off of the road 10 minutes later when I hopped in my car. There is a definition on Wikipedia for this: Virtual Reality Sickness. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality_sickness

I almost drove off the road as when I hopped in my little Nissan 300ZX, I felt like I was still in the game, and actually pulled and pushed on the steering wheel to make the car go up and down. It wasn’t a nauseating motion sick experience, but more like an “I’m confused in my physical state” moment. I had just been staring at a computer monitor and I can only imagine that wearing a VR headset would compound these feelings.

Facebook, Occulus Rift, and other VR companies are making us immobile. Do you picture a world that looks like this?

Sony VR Headset

Sony VR Headset

Reality is using your 5 senses. Virtual Reality is using 2 senses (sight & sound). Augmented Reality is using 3 senses (sight, sound & touch). Maybe we will have smell and taste someday. My goal is to have children use as many senses as possible. They should learn about their bodies and educate themselves to stay healthy.

Three years ago, I was feeding my 1-year-old boy on our back deck. I was thinking about him playing video games. I was picturing him on a couch with a controller in his hand or standing in front of a TV with a pair of controllers. I was then picturing a TV outside. Then, the ‘ah-hah’ moment happened: Why can’t we use this new technology of mobile apps to create outdoor video games? My first thoughts were to use some sort of Bluetooth device to track item location, (the BT location trackers had not debuted yet). I wanted the parent or teacher to place a tracker on prizes and hide them in a park or backyard for the child to have a 5-30 minute adventure story that eventually leads them to the prize.

A few months later, while talking to my life-long buddy, and fellow extreme athlete, Jason Burrill, I had another ah-hah moment. We were talking about mounting a BT tracker to a Frisbee and creating Virtual Reality Frisbee Golf. My next thought was if we can track a Frisbee and place it onto a screen or in the game, why couldn’t we use the motion tracking of smartphones (or now we have plenty of activity trackers), to insert you as a character within the game.

Video games are so much fun and educate our brains in so many different ways. There are a few companies, such as Zamzee and the mobile app, ‘Zombies, Run!!!’ that are using mobile technology to encourage activity, but they are only adding a few pieces of the puzzle to their apps. (See chart below) Why don’t we sell an app that has all of the pieces? The parents are getting overwhelmed with which health apps to use, and some parents are asking their pediatrician’s, who have limited time to stay current.

Health App Comparison

Health App Comparison

Now lets take it to the next level of fun. There is an amazing amount of BT sporting goods being released these days. The first BT tracking basketball is the 94fifty.com

94Fifty Basketball

94Fifty Basketball

There are golf clubs, volleyballs, and tennis rackets that all have this motion tracking technology now. There are also the new smart garments making their introduction. They can track the exertion and position of the body during any movement. Much like the blue screen, or a wired biometric athletic star was tracked for video games, we can do this for anybody now and insert them into the game.

My Frisbee golf app is now a possibility, and I also have designed a Decathlon app to be ready before the next summer Olympics. Place a BT tracker in a shot-put ball and a discus and we can now track most of the 10 events of an Olympic Decathlon for young and old players to compete against others around the world (field, backyard or park required for use). I’m not sure if we want to equip the javelin and pole-vaulting equipment with trackers just yet.

Heads-Up Displays (HUD) such as Google Glass, and the Recon Instruments Jet will create an augmented reality partner to challenge and coach you along, whether it is a computer opponent or another online player. I enjoy my Recon Instruments ski goggles with the HUD. It allows me to see, real-time, my speed and elevation changes, and it also brings up a trail map of the current ski resort so that you can see your location on the mountain, and the locations of other friends on the hill. People ask me if it distracts me while skiing, and you can compare it to a speedometer in your car, you typically don’t stare at it while driving.

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel reported about the first college scholarships for video game players. Chicago Robert Morris University has recruited 30 students (100 scholarships for next year) who are the best in the country at MMO gaming, such as League of Legends. The appeal of outdoor sports, especially golf, is diminishing because of the gaming revolution. So it seems to me like the only way to guarantee our special relationship with fitness and nature is to gammify it. Some people might say that we are ruining the soul of nature by adding technology to the experience, but if the child isn’t exposed to nature, they will never find the appeal in it.

The Nintendo Wii and the Xbox Kinect bring a new breed of fitness gamers, but these games should only be used on rainy or cold days, or they are an only option for many city kids who don’t have access to local parks.

The smartphone has become a crutch for human happiness, as it’s only the social aspect of it that fulfills our endorphin desires. Lets turn the smart devices into a coach or companion, or some kids might like to call it a pet. When we create games that challenge you physically as well as mentally, then we are heading in the right direction to wean ourselves from the pseudo happiness that technology brings. We should use social (sporting) apps to encourage each other and not to bully each other.

— Wired article about how the author was almost ‘destroyed’ while playing an Occulus Rift game. http://www.wired.com/2014/07/alien-isolation-oculus

— Check out the latest sports tech creation using a GoPro Camera that is being synced to an App that is using the GPS. http://www.theskichannel.com/news/featured/20141223/video-us-ski-team-debuts-trace-technology/

About: GenZPlay is on the forefront of mobile apps contributing to the ideology of wellness. By pioneering the idea of apps focused on intrinsic motivation and leveraging the recent boom in health-related applications for smartphones and tablets, GenZPlay is bringing the concept of exergaming to the outdoors by creating fun and exciting computer applications to be enjoyed outside for all ages and abilities.

GenZPlay is supported by an expert team of designers, world-class athletes, and medical professionals. For more information, please visit: genzplay.com or download the beta version of the ‘Big Cat Race’ at Google Play or on the iTunes app store.

1 Comment

  • Ben on January 9, 2015

    ROTT (Rise Of The Triad) with the drunk missile and the magic dog bone and hand of god.

    I am hoping for a more interactive experience myself. Google is experimenting with cell phone like device that can virtually map your surroundings as you walk around. With a few of those networked a small group could map out an entire building in no time, furniture and all. Now add in a google glass like device that can add to what you already see and you could play virtual paint ball anywhere without the mess. But no stopping there. Your teammates and opponents could be outfitted with virtual costumes and masks. How about cowboys and Indians with virtual arrows sticking into walls? Hunger games…. or even a zombie apocalypse!!

    Of course once you take the gear off it will be hard to adjust back to real life. I can easily imagine seeing monsters hiding behind my couch out of the corner of my eye after playing a virtual game in my own house. But I had the same experience with GTA the fist time I played. Jumped in my car to go to the Mall and had the urge to ram other cars just for fun. I felt like I was driving a car in GTA. For me, it didn’t last and I haven’t had a similar experience since, even with the newer games with better graphics and physics. Maybe it just takes a little getting used to before your brain builds a solid understanding of real vs. virtual. It will, however, almost certainly be a real safety issue that needs addressing no matter what our future holds.

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