This app encourages kids to get moving through games on their phones
When Andrew Hall, the UK-based developer behind GenMove, developed the app, he thought about creating a solution that would allow children to exercise in an engaging way without taking their smartphones away from them. That one thought led to the development of GenMove, which encourages children to move either outside or in their bedrooms with their familiar phones.
“Maybe in our generation we chose to go out and get involved in sports, but today’s kids get it a lot faster by getting involved with the screen,” Hall said indianexpress.com in a call from Perth, Australia.
Children not going out to play and engage in different types of outdoor games is a real concern, even parents admit that children of the current generation do not even know what those games were. Instead, kids like to spend hours on virtual spaces like Roblox and Minecraft and their entire “social” life revolves around meeting online friends and being entertained by video games. As a result, many children spend more time in front of their smartphone screens, 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 could work for smartphone addiction, is how we manage their screen time. “We have to engage the kids where they want to play what’s on the screen, and not just tell them it’s very good for them and they don’t even realize they’re exercising,” he said, adding that it’s not that the kids don’t want to exercise, it’s just that they need a more engaging experience. “There’s a lot of commentary coming out now that the motion literacy of the current generation is nowhere near what it was the previous generation, and we think that’s because of screen time,” he said.
Capitalize on video games
Hall thinks an app like GenMove does change the story and offer a solution to children’s excessive screen time problem. GenMove is not a fitness app in the traditional sense, but it uses video games centered around exercise. With GenMove, kids can exercise and also play a game, with the app taking advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), turning them into a part of the game. This is possible through the selfie camera on their smartphone, which tracks each independent body part in real time, opening a new way to interact with the objects on the screen.
“You control the game through your body movement. And by looking at the screen, it’s like looking in a mirror and watching yourself interact with these objects on the screen and play a game,” said Hall, a former health scientist turned venture capitalist. describes the basic premise of GenMove.
There are about 50 games, and their order is different every day. Based on one’s performance, they earn currency to customize their avatar. There are no additional in-app purchases, nothing that people are used to in mobile games. The app is designed to be played for 10 minutes a day, equivalent to a high-impact fitness session without the stress of finding an instructor, appropriate clothing and leaving the house. “We have practiced practice,” he said. “We borrowed from some of the most famous titles of yesteryear, and we created a motion game.”
The idea for GenMove came from data and insights Hall and his team gathered while working on the BALLN app, which uses technology like AR and AI to hone soccer players’ skills. To Hall’s surprise, engagement in indoor workouts has been high during the coronavirus pandemic. The expertise in creating the BALLN app and access to the data helped Hall create the GenMove app. “I think we accidentally developed a child’s play fitness platform. It was kind of this unintended consequence of the pandemic that showed us the way to develop the app [GenMove],” he explained.
GenMove Season 1, developed in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and FIFA, is already available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The app has been in development for months and only recently went live during the ongoing FIFA World Cup, currently taking place in Qatar.
GenMove is currently available in 130 countries and that 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.
‘Overall well-being of parents’
Hall and his team flew to Qatar in October to test the app on 75 children between the ages of six and 19 of all shapes and sizes and neurological abilities, including autistic children. During a one-week exercise, Hall observed that most children who did not want to move actually began to move. “Seventy-three of the 75 kids completed the actual session, and we had their physical teachers come to us and say, we just can’t get these kids moving, the game fitness has something to it, ” he explained.
Some parents fear that video games can be detrimental to children’s well-being and mental health. To that, Hall said completing a GenMove session is “very different” than “what they.” [kids] is” after playing a video game. “When we talk about using the screen to get them moving, the parent’s eyes lift and they say it could be the secret weapon because everyone is so frustrated with their kids who want to sit on the couch and play video games for hours every day,” he said. Hall added, “I really believe the parents are a very strong ally, but the game has to be a lot of fun for the kids to play . This is the approach we are taking because eventually we will sell this app [GenMove] as a solution for the overall well-being of the 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. They spend an average of 30 minutes a day on the app.
Hall said his team is always working to improve the app and get the user experience right. “In our beta testing we realized that we had a lot of things wrong, we saw 50 percent drops in places where we thought there would be no drop.” Hall pointed out that his company is very data-driven and that 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 on, but once the World Cup ends, Hall said he will start charging for the app. Pricing has yet to be decided, but Hall indicated that GenMove will cost the same as other fitness apps, with the option to try for free before users pay for the app.
By early next year, Hall plans to launch a free trial version of season two of GenMove. It will include a multiplayer mode where users can join others and play against the 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 another 50 games, but it will take several months to develop and release to the public.
A big part of his push is to improve the look and feel of avatars and the ability for the avatar to be with you in the game experience. It all sounds like big ambitions to build a metaverse, which is described as a virtual world or a space where 3D interactions will be possible. “It’s not that we consciously chose to be in the metaverse. That’s just what the children like to get involved with. So, that’s what we’re building out,” he said.
“We know that the parents don’t like these game companies, but they still allow their kids to play because the kids are having fun. The missing piece to that is this training experience and if you can earn more for your avatars through this metaverse interaction, we do see that as part of that. For us, when we think about metaverse, we think about avatar interoperability between games.”