I met with Kai Huang, co-founder and CEO of Blue Goji, and Zach Fountain, COO in a SOMA gym to test out Goji Play, a fusion of hardware and software that turns any cardio fitness machine into an interactive and engaging workout experience. How engaging? After the interview I tried Goji Play at home for thirty minutes and it really did feel like I had only been working out for five – it was totally and utterly immersive. Kai and his team are pros at making games active and social – he co-founded and invented Guitar Hero almost a decade ago.
The device setup is simple. I downloaded the Goji Play App as well as some games while giving the wearable activity sensor a quick charge. I clipped the sensor onto my shirt, but it also fit comfortably in my pocket or on my shoe. Setting up the wireless game controllers meant hitting all the buttons to sync them to the iPad app, which took several seconds.
The controllers are intuitive to use and designed for comfort. They can be fitted on any cardio machine or fixed onto hand batons (great for treadmill workouts). After a few minutes of using the buttons and commands they became second nature and I could focus my attention on exerting more energy into my cardio activity. I downloaded several games including a boxing game, a fast moving game (reminiscent of Mario Cart), and a block matching game similar to Tetris. Twenty minutes on one game felt like two minutes – I was so immersed that time passed quickly and before I knew it I had drummed up a sweat.
From Guitar Hero, Kai witnessed how fun games can inspire people – friends and families – to be more active and social.
How did you make the leap from pure gaming (Guitar Hero) to health and fitness?
KH: “We wanted to take the immersive experience of gaming and use it to inspire people to get active. The power of games is that they get people to engage in an activity in such a way that you often don’t realize how much time has passed because you’ve been so involved. While you are doing this, we are tracking your fitness goals, steps, distance, etc. and truly making this a fitness product.”
How has Guitar Hero influenced the design and hardware of Goji Play, if at all?
KH: “We’ve designed the Goji Play for comfort – we want you to use it on any wireless device and any cardio device in the gym. The hardware is designed to be simple and easy to use – something that everyone feels comfortable using.”
ZF: “On the software side, we area focused on making games that are deep, engaging, immersive experiences. Additional games and apps are in development and will be released on a regular basis.”
Who is your target market?
KH: “Anyone who uses an exercise machine. We have a broad audience from people who have invested in exercise equipment at home to anyone with access to a gym. “
What is the broader vision and mission of Blue Goji?
KH: “We want people to lead healthier lives and we want to get people motivated. If we can take an activity and make it fun while helping you get healthy in the process then we’ve done well.”
ZF: “We want this to have an impact on the entire family and each member can create their own profile. There might be a primary purchaser but because we support multiple profiles and have a wide variety of games we envision the entire household getting value and having some collective fun in getting in shape and using the system together. Also, given that the New Year is around the corner, we think Goji Play can keep people on track with any fitness resolutions.”
KH: “We want people to remember that Goji Play is all about fun and letting you have fun. In the background it’s about pushing you to achieve your fitness goals – but if you have fun using Goji Play, then we’ve succeeded.”
Available online starting today for $99, Goji Play is compatible with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, and can be used with most cardio equipment including treadmills, stationary and recumbent bicycles, and elliptical machines.