Sunday, February 15, 2015

Technology to Improve Kids' Physical Fitness

I arrived early to a recent National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball game and immediately noticed the oddity of players on both teams, in addition to the three referees, all wearing the same bright red t-shirts during their warm-up period in place of their regular pregame attire. I took out my phone and Googled "NBA FIT," which was emblazoned on the shirts, to learn that this was part of the NBA's Live Healthy Week presented by Kaiser Permanente. The goal of this special week dedicated to fitness and healthy living had three simple pillars: be active, eat healthy and play together.
NBA Fit t-shirts (NBA Cares)
What a great idea I thought. As a father, I find myself often lamenting that my children's generation doesn't play outside as much as we did as kids. There are, quite simply, too many distractions competing for their time. If they're not playing X-Box or Sony Playstation, their faces are staring at the glowing screens of their iPad or smartphone. I've long been thinking of a way to capitalize on the youngest generation's love affair with technology while also encouraging them to be more active.

This mashup of technology and fitness has been successfully generated by the newly formed sports and entertainment company Day 6 Sports Group, based in Los Angeles. This company is teaming up with the NBA to re-launch Backyard Sports, a series of digital games starring pro athletes as kid versions of themselves. After originally debuting in 1997 by Atari, the Backyard Sports brand will now be available in mobile game form for smartphones and tablets, making them even more accessible for today's generation of tech-savvy kids.
Backyard Sports Sonic NBA Basketball Game

I'm a big fan of this idea of meeting kids where they are and embracing their love of technology all the while getting them outdoors and active again. Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, the winner of the 2015 NBA 3-Point Shootout, is also a big fan and supporter of this concept. Curry, who grew up playing Backyard Sports, signed on to help promote the basketball line and bring the game to the next generation. Of course, it's not only basketball that Day 6 Sports Group is focusing on. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas they revealed a new baseball game that is sure to get kids out of the house and running around again in the backyard this spring and summer.

Backyard Sports Sonic Boom Bat

Day 6 Sports Group has seen the popularity of games like Skylanders and Disney's Infinity, which let gamers directly influence the gameplay with their choice of a physical action figure. They have taken that proven play pattern and transferred it to sports, but they take it up a notch by letting the gamer power up the player by physically playing the sport. A prime example of this strategy is with the Sonic Boom Bat, which I learned about at Showstoppers, a one evening off-site product expo at CES. This oversized light green bat is infused with Action Track® technology to measure the movement of the swing. Players with the strongest swing are automatically rewarded with QR Codes that translate into player points in the Backyard Sports game to increase their player's bat speed, running and throwing power. With its sonic boom chamber and embrace of technology, the Sonic Boom Bat is sure to help bring the joy of baseball to all ages and lead to more healthy lifestyles for children this year.

For the younger generation -- the digital natives -- they will come to expect their sporting goods and outdoor game products to be enhanced with technology in the future. The merging of modern digital technology with sports is the best way to get our children to want to engage in competitive backyard sports, which will encourage more healthy lifestyles and contribute to the fight against childhood obesity.

I'm both happy and relieved to see these great initiatives dedicated to get kids off the couch and back into the backyard, playing together and engaging in physical sports competition aside from their sports teams. Rather than substituting technology and video games for active sports competition, Day 6 Sports Group, through Backyard Sports, has found the sweet spot in the fusing together of these two concepts. And our children will be the better for it.

Cross-posted to the Huffington Post

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