Our Journey

As a health and wellness technology startup, Blue Goji is all about a collective journey to better health through games, especially with new virtual reality games.

Why games? We enjoy playing games because they are fun -- that’s the simple answer. On a deeper level, playing games we enjoy is the only time we are 100% (or very close to it) committed and engaged mentally! No talking on the phone, texting, daydreaming, or surfing the web -- just focusing and playing! In fact, similar to playing sports, playing fun and engaging games demands our total concentration and interaction, but without the physical intensity of sport. With modern life’s myriad of distractions, this type of experience is becoming more and more precious and rare. This revelation began the genesis of Blue Goji: what if we could harvest the same commitment and engagement from fun and exciting games -- especially from VR games that can truly transport us to a different world -- and infuse them with interactive and physical actions into what we call Active Gaming/Active VR? Leveraging this Active Gaming/Active VR concept, we wanted to find out if we could make it easier and much more fun for “the rest of us” -- not just the top 5% of very active and health-oriented people who don’t need any help or motivation -- to develop and maintain healthier habits and improve our overall health and wellness.

Since then, we have been hard at work experimenting, testing, building out, and validating Active Gaming/Active VR with all kinds of technology, including mobile and VR games, apps, hardware, and software. We accept the challenge of “developing healthier habits for the rest of us” and understand the risk as well as the fact that no one has succeeded in doing so! We have made a lot of progress but we also have had our fair share of setbacks.

 

This is our collective journey.

Getting Ready for GojiCare

For 2017, we have two key objectives. The first one is to roll out a wider Active VR beta testing program. We need to enlist the help from early VR adopters who also have an interest in health and wellness. If you have an elliptical machine or a stationary bike at home as well as an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headset, we encourage you to sign up and try out Active VR. Then, have fun competing in GojiMadness Tournament 2017!

The second key objective for us is to finish our GojiCare work and launch a few pilot programs before the end of the 3rd quarter of 2017. Based on our on-going R&D efforts, we have come to the conclusion that Blue Goji is best positioned to create a new type of complementary service to traditional clinical care. GojiCare will proactively manage individual health risk factors of those with top chronic conditions (like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, etc.), and potentially “bend” these risk curves for better, improved health outcomes! In order to achieve this goal, we will leverage our Active Gaming/Active VR technology and related games and apps to help these patients.

  • Our initial support of Active VR was a major 2016 milestone for us. After the release of new virtual reality headsets by major companies, we were able to complete the second half of our original Active Gaming/Active VR vision. However, a big hurdle remained: when we infuse a typical stationary VR experience with an abstract cardio motion from either an elliptical or a stationary bike, can we make the Active VR experience more immersive? Based on our VR activations and demos at key game expos, like GamesCom and VRLA, we’ve garnered overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic user responses. In fact, we have discovered a surprising side benefit: the abstract cardio motion of Active VR can mitigate most, if not all, of the common VR-induced motion sickness!
  • Completing the GojiMadness Tournament was a major 2016 milestone for us. It validated our overall gamified incentive and reward design, and also highlighted its effectiveness in motivating our users to compete and to have fun, regardless of their fitness levels. More critically, we learned a lot from our final four contestants. Ruth and Dave were using Goji Play to help them recover from their illnesses. Jeff, the ultimate Tournament Winner, was trying to lose a bit of weight before the arrival of a new baby. Kevin was simply enjoying the fun of Active Gaming during his cardio workout.
Furthering Our Goals Through Innovative Partnerships

In May, 2016, Blue Goji became an official partner with Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), a non-profit organization based on the original “Let’s Move” Initiative championed by the former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Since we support PHA’s core mission to end childhood obesity, we have committed to develop an Active Gaming/Active VR-based solution for kids, especially kids from underserved communities. You can learn more here, or visit www.ahealthieramerica.org.

  • After becoming an official PHA Partner and making a commitment to help end childhood obesity, Blue Goji is ready to do more. Understanding the challenges often faced by kids growing up in underserved communities, we know we could potentially do more with our Active Gaming/Active VR technology. For example, what if we could add an Active Learning component to our fun “Active” games for kids? Could we simulate their young, flexible minds with “Active” game plays -- since many research studies have demonstrated that physical activities do in fact help kids learn better -- that are fun but also educational? These and other health and wellness questions became the driving force behind this unique collaboration of UC Berkeley School of Public Health, the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership, the Coleman Fung Foundation, and Blue Goji: the Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations, a two-year pilot program for undergraduates of all majors. For more Fellowship information, please visit the program's site.
Incentivizing Exercise With Healthy Competition

At this point, we had built a strong foundation of a gamified ecosystem that provided incentives, rewards, and competitions for users doing any Goji Play and/or other normal activities, such as running, cycling, or walking. It was now time to raise awareness about our new technologies. Working with a major marketing firm to promote the release of GP2 with experiential marketing, we created an “influencer-led” online campaign, with many popular exercise-oriented Internet personalities. The plan was to leverage this Influencer Campaign to introduce and sign up users for the GojiMadness Tournament -- the ultimate pilot reward program for our users with a brand new car as the grand prize!

Even with fewer users signed up than expected, we decided to run the GojiMadness Tournament as planned in order to finish testing on the design of our reward system by the end of June, 2016. In the end, we were very glad we kept our tournament because the Madness results were simply amazing and inspiring! User enthusiasm and efforts were off the charts, competitions were intense yet fun, tournament prizes were impressive. The final four contestants trekked to New York City, two of them for the first time, for the last two rounds of battles. Their personal stories and reasons for participating in the tournament made the effort well worth it. Learn more here: GojiMadness Tournament.

  • Unfortunately, the Influencer Campaign did not produce satisfying results. First of all, the marketing firm could not recruit the number and the types of influencers they had identified and heavily promoted to us. Secondly, we were oversold on what the influencers would do. Finally, it was probably the challenge of a complicated setup of Goji Play -- requiring both a cardio machine and an iOS or Android tablet -- that failed to resonate with potential users.
More R&D, More Experimentations, and Goji Play 2.0 (GP2)

Based on our research, time, or the lack of time, was a critical reason most people did not follow through with their own exercise goals. Combining our own research with other independent “fractionalized exercise” research studies, we came to the same conclusion that completing multiple, but shorter, sessions of cardio workouts has almost as many benefits as doing one long session.. This method is also more doable for people suffering from many chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes to start their physical activities. Stemming from these conclusions, we created a pilot corporate wellness program, called GameBreaks@Work. Partnering with a few pioneering companies in the Austin area, we set up Active Gaming elliptical machines and stationary bikes in their offices so that their staff could take short, 5- to 10-minute, GameBreaks throughout the day while they work. Some of these pilot programs continue to run today.

  • In November 2015, we released the new Goji Play 2.0 (GP2) hardware as an updated design that included new magnetic straps, a built-in accelerometer inside the left controller, and new gamepads on both controllers. More importantly, we also released more games , new apps, and support for Android devices. After the new releases, we had 16 total games in the App Store, and 15 in the Google Play Store. The new apps we created were GojiGo, an exercise tracking app; GojiTate, a mediation app; and GojiVerse, a personal dashboard showing activity summaries.
Developing, Testing & Validating “Active Gaming” with Goji Play 1.0 (GP1)

The process began by asking ourselves: how do we develop this Active Gaming concept into a real product? We spent the first 9 months experimenting and designing different game accessories, including a “game controller chair” that flexed and came with all the usual buttons. In the end, we decided to focus on cardio equipment, especially ellipticals and stationary bikes, and convert them into Active Gaming stations, turning a monotonous cardio workout into actual, fun gameplay. Still, the big question remained: would people play games while doing their cardio workout?

Although we got mostly positive feedback from users, the overall Goji Play product, requiring a cardio machine as well as an iPad/iPhone, was -- and still is -- a hurdle for people to comprehend and understand. Nevertheless, the positive feedback was sufficient validation to make us excited to develop an improved version of GP1 and to build out its gamified ecosystem.

  • By 2014, we were probably the only company left doing any interesting work in the “gamification of health” space. Given the health crisis in America–that two thirds of all Americans were either obese or overweight–we knew we had to push harder to realize our vision. Instead of giving up, we doubled down on our commitment to and investment on our efforts.
  • In December 2013, Goji Play 1.0 (GP1) controllers and iOS games were released, immediately garnering positive feedback from acclaimed critics, including those from CNET, Mashable, and TechCrunch. GP1 was a set of unique game controllers that worked with most standard cardio equipment to make cardio exercise an engaging gaming experience. The users could wrap GP1 controllers (using the Velcro straps) around the handlebars of an elliptical, a stationary bike, or a stair stepper (treadmill is supported for walking only); and clip on the accelerometer-based sensor. With GP1 games downloaded to their iPad or iPhone, they could begin playing while exercising. Thanks to the clipped-on sensor, GP1 translated a user’s speed into game movements and mechanics. This concept drove the collection of 12 games of various genres.