"Gamification" -- the idea that digitally attaching points, levels, and instant feedback to un-fun activities will magically make them more engaging -- may have already jumped the shark, but that hasn't stopped the trend from growing. One new player on the scene, Green Goose, at least tries to zig where others have zagged by focusing on physical product design rather than badge-addled vaporware. It's selling a family-friendly kit filled with cleverly designed digital sensors that let you add "game mechanics" to just about anything you have laying around the house.
Brian Krejcarek, Green Goose's founder, says his kit is all about creating "quantified fun." Even if that phrase makes you throw up in your mouth a little, you can't deny that his perky little sensors fill a need that other products in this space aren't addressing: namely, that tracking your habits (whether it's brushing your teeth, going for jogs, or anything else you wish you did more often) is a giant pain in the ass. "The way people have to manually log that information is too tedious," Krejcarek tells Co.Design. "Seeing a graph of your exercise or cups of coffee may be interesting, but the benefits don't outweigh the hassle of keeping it current."
Smart sensors can be attached to everything from floss to pill bottles.
Green Goose's sensors, meanwhile, come with proprietary algorithms that are tuned to track specific activities without any input from the user. Attach a cute little egg to your toothbrush, and it automagically knows to measure how often you clean your teeth. Pop a credit-card-sized pedometer in your purse or pocket, and it's smart enough to track your steps while ignoring other jiggling throughout your day. The sensors communicate with a wireless base station, but they can also store data when they're taken out of the system's 300-foot range and sync it later. And each one has a battery that lasts a whole year.
But Green Goose's smartest idea is embedding smart sensors in a pack of discreet adhesive stickers that can be attached to just about anything -- from floss to pill bottles, lunch bags to lawn darts. Just match the icon on the sticker to the real-life object or activity -- Green Goose has about 50 of them, with more on the way -- and the algorithms take care of the rest. "It's a very passive and ubiquitous approach," says Krejcarek. "People aren't thinking about syncing, logging or configuring anything. These are activities that you may be doing already, and we want to make them even more fun."
That explains the colorful, bubbly product design -- unlike other "serious game" schemes meant to turn work into play, Green Goose is "oriented toward kids and families," Krejcarek says. "It's intentionally playful design; none of it should be taken too seriously." Maybe that's why there's a sensor you can slap on the family pet. Why? Who knows? But if your kids are bored on a rainy Sunday afternoon, you might be more inclined to think: Why not? "We also build games around stuff that is more health oriented," Krejcarek adds, "but we don't perceive ourselves as health company -- it's more about just doing activities that bring families together."
While that pitch might not sound Silicon-Valley sexy, it was enough to hook investors at Jason Calacanis's Launch conference earlier this year. With "gamification" being loudly (and dubiously) touted as a solution to everything from workplace ennui to global warming, maybe Green Goose's light touch is exactly what people actually want.