Hopelab, a non-profit outfit focused on using the power and appeal of technology to improve children’s health, has developed a product and social enterprise to incentivize physical activity in young teens. The device is called Zamzee and comprises a hip worn physical activity sensor incorporating a tri-axial accelerometer and an online social networking environment.
The physical activity sensor, which doubles as a retractable USB memory stick, awards physical activity ‘points’ which can be uploaded to the Zamzee web portal. The number of points then unlocks rewards such as shopping, games and challenges. The online web environment also allows the users to share all of their physical activity data online in a social networking context.
According to the HopeLab website, Zamzee has been tested in randomized, controlled, pilot studies in 350 young teens logging over 10,000 days of activity. The study found a 30% improvement in physical activity in teens using Zamzee and the results were used to optimize the rewards model for Zamzee.
That’s a pretty significant increase in physical activity by any measure. Although the idea of a reward-based system is not strictly new for these types of devices, the child centered approach for its design is quite interesting. The initial product concept was developed from an idea generated by 400 kids and in-depth profiling interviews with “tweens” across the U.S.. It is a fascinating project and we will be watching closely to see how it develops.
Johnathon Atwood of Zamzee at TEDx Silicon Valley 2011: