When Andrew Hall, the UK-based developer behind GenMove, was developing the app, he thought of creating a solution for kids to exercise in an engaging way without taking their smartphone away. This thought led to the development of GenMove, which encourages children to move outside or in their bedroom with their already familiar phones.
“Maybe in our generation we chose to go out and play sports, but today’s kids get it much faster by engaging with the screen,” Hall said. indianexpress.com on a call from Perth, Australia.
Kids not getting out to play and indulge in different kinds of outdoor games is a real concern, even parents admit that kids of the current generation don’t even know what those games were. Instead, kids enjoy spending hours on virtual spaces like Roblox and Minecraft and their entire “social” life revolves around meeting friends online and having fun through video games. As a result, many children spend more time in front of their smartphone screen, which skews their inclination towards physical activities.
Hall said exposure to a smartphone isn’t bad for kids — after all, kids born today are digital natives. The solution, he thinks, might work for smartphone addiction, is how we manage their screen time. “We need to engage kids where they want to play, which is on screen, and don’t tell them it’s very good for them and they don’t even realize they’re doing exercise,” he said, adding that it’s not that kids don’t want to exercise, it’s just that they need a more engaging experience. “There are a lot of comments coming out now that the movement literacy of the current generation is nowhere near what it was of the previous generation, and we believe that is due to screen time,” he said. he declares.
Capitalize on video games
Hall thinks an app like GenMove changes the narrative and offers a solution to the problem of children’s excessive screen time. GenMove isn’t a fitness app in the traditional sense, but it capitalizes on exercise-centric video games. With GenMove, kids can exercise and also play a game, with the app leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR), turning them into a part of the game. possible thanks to the selfie camera on their smartphone, which tracks each independent body part in real time, opening up a new way of interacting with on-screen objects.
“You control the game through your body movements. And looking at the screen is like looking at yourself in a mirror and watching yourself interact with these objects on the screen and play a game,” described Hall, a former health scientist turned venture capitalist. , based on the basic principle of GenMove.
There are about 50 games, and their sequence is different every day. Depending on his performance, he earns a currency to customize his avatar. There are no additional in-app purchases, nothing people are used to in mobile games. The app is designed to be played for 10 minutes a day, which equals a high-impact fitness session without the stress of finding an instructor, proper clothing, and leaving the house. “We gamified exercise,” he said. “We’ve borrowed from some of the most famous titles of yesteryear and created a motion game.”
The idea for GenMove was born from the data and insights Hall and his team gathered while working on the BALLN app, which uses technologies such as AR and AI to hone the skills of footballers. To Hall’s surprise, engagement for indoor workouts was high during the coronavirus pandemic. Expertise in building the BALLN app and access to data helped Hall create the GenMove app. “I think we developed a playful fitness platform for kids by accident. It was kind of this unintended consequence of the pandemic that showed us the way to app development. [GenMove],” he explained.
Season 1 of GenMove, developed in association with the World Health Organization (WHO) and FIFA, is already online on the Apple AppStore and Google Play store. The app had been in development for months and only recently went live during the ongoing FIFA World Cup, which is currently taking place in Qatar.
GenMove is currently available in 130 countries and this number will reach 170 by the end of the month. The app is currently available in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish and soon Hindi will be added. Holland is the most popular market for GenMove, Hall said. The app works on any android smartphone or iPhone.
“General well-being of parents”
Hall and his team traveled to Qatar in October to test the app on 75 children aged 6 to 19, of all shapes, sizes and neurological abilities, including children with autism. During a week-long exercise, Hall observed that most children who didn’t want to move actually started moving. “Seventy-three of the 75 kids finished the actual session, and their physics teachers came to us and said, we just can’t get these kids moving, playful fitness has something in it,” he said. Explain.
Some parents worry that video games are harmful to children’s well-being and mental health. To this, Hall said that completing a GenMove session is “very different” from “what they [kids] are” after playing a video game. “When we talk about using the screen to get them moving, parents’ eyes light up and they say it could be the secret weapon because everyone is so frustrated with their kids sitting on the couch and that they want to play video games for hours every day,” he said. Hall added: “I really believe that parents are a very strong ally, but the game has to be super fun for the kids. This is the approach we take because ultimately we will sell this app [GenMove] as a solution to the general well-being of parents.
When GenMove was in development, the biggest concern for Hall and the team was whether kids would come back and find these exercises fun and engaging enough. On average, they spend 30 minutes a day on the app.
Hall said his team is always working on improving the app and improving the quality of the user experience. “During our beta testing we realized we were having a lot of issues, we saw drops of 50% in places where we thought there would be no drops.” Hall pointed out that his company is very data-driven, and the team iterates two to three times a week based on data coming back from the field.
Right now, GenMove is free to use until FIFA matches are over, but once the World Cup is over, Hall said he’ll start charging for the app. Pricing has yet to be decided, but Hall said GenMove will cost the same as other fitness apps, with the option to try for free before users pay for the app.
Early next year, Hall plans to launch a free trial of GenMove season two. It will include a multiplayer mode where users can join others and play against family. The company plans to add a new avatar interaction mode where a player’s avatar will be part of the experience. The plan is also to include 50 more games, but that will take a few months to develop and release to the public.
A big part of its push is to improve the way avatars look and the ability for the avatar to be with you in the gaming experience. It all sounds like big ambitions to build a metaverse, which is described as a virtual world or space where 3D interactions will be possible. “It’s not that we consciously chose to be in the metaverse. It’s just that kids like to engage. So that’s what we’re building,” he said.
“We know parents don’t like these gaming companies, but they still allow their kids to play because the kids have fun. The missing piece is that exercise experience and if you can earn more for your avatars through that metaverse interaction, we consider it part of it. For us, when we think of the metaverse, we think of the interoperability of avatars between games.