Tech Beat: Online games "boosted" by soccer playing tries to make kids more active
An unexpected combination of soccer balls and video games are helping to keep kids away from video games and more physically active. Technology reporter Adam Balkin filed the following report.
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Soccer balls might look innocent enough, but they are actually weapons in the ongoing battle trying to lure child away from video games, in order to get them to physically active. Strange thing is though, these soccer balls are part of a video game, through a system set up by FunGoPlay.
The company produces pieces of sporting equipment filled with sensors, so that the more kids play with that equipment, they get a better "power up" when they enter the FunGoPlay online world.
"It's a fancy way of saying there's a pedometer, durometer, every 'ometer' in the world you can think of is in there and we're simplifying it really into a tracking device that allows for kids to track the amount of time they're playing with the ball or actually how much effort they're placing on it," says David Jacobs of FunGoPlay. "So what happens is it gives the kid a reward in the way of a level, then that level is turned into a reward online."
The ball has a little screen, that when a child is done playing, reveals a code that gets entered into the online world. The obvious goal is to get kids, like the ones at the Henry Street Settlement after-school program on Manhattan's Lower East Side, to be motivated enough by the video game to want to run outside and play.
"I want to be the highest level so I can earn more money for my character. Run faster, try harder, and try to use the ball as much as I can," says nine-year-old Devin Justiniano
FunGoPlay is going to use its work at Henry Street Settlement to create a pilot program that could be used in schools and other after-school programs around the country.
There are other video games that tries to encourage physical activity, but FunGoPlay tries to stand out by using more traditional athletic equipment.
For those interested in giving it a try, the soccer balls come free with a subscription to the online world at FunGoPlay.com. Prices range from about $7 a month to $60 a year.