As technology continues to advance and becomes more of an omnipresent part of our lives from a young age, it has become a growing concern that physical activity in children has decreased dramatically, while childhood obesity continues to skyrocket. One company hopes to change that by seamlessly blending technology with physical activity.
Enter tgoma, which stands for "take gaming outside and make it active."
The freshly-debuted company connects the fun of tablet gaming with the physical activity of jumping a backyard trampoline. The trampoline mat is fitted with sensors that use Bluetooth technology to interact with a tablet docked onto the trampoline's enclosure.
Steve Holmes, the founder of tgoma, told A Plus that the inspiration behind the new product came from seeing how tech savvy his 4 young grandchildren are. He was concerned about surveys that found children and teens can spend as much as 60 hours per week consuming technology at the expense of being physically active outside.
The battle between technology and physical activity has become a source of contention between many parents and children, but Holmes had a radical idea that the two could be blended more seamlessly than ever before.
"You're not gonna beat technology and so for me, the big passion that I had was [finding if we] could we shift from technology inside to technology outside," Holmes said.
Holmes, who also founded the safety-focused Springfree trampoline company in 2003, paired up with electrical engineers in order to make his existing product more high-tech. He wanted to take advantage of the connectivity options that hadn't been available before the current abundance of wireless technology like Bluetooth and wifi.
"Our [trampoline] business was under attack, really, even though we didn't know it," Holmes admitted. "Kids were spending less and less time in the backyards and so parents were having to look at us and say, 'Well, why would I spend money when my kids don't even go outside?'"
Holmes said that among the pilot families testing tgoma, time spent on the trampolines was 9-12 times higher. Part of the appeal could be because there is something for all ages.
There are currently 7 games that can be played with tgoma, ranging from simple games aimed at the youngest jumpers to educational games for older kids to fitness-based programs to be enjoyed by adults.
Instead of ordinary games that require a player to virtually jump on bad guys, tgoma actually brings the action to life. Sensors on the trampoline mat are able to depict where the jumper lands, translating that action into the game.
The lineup of games will be ever-growing, with developers continually testing new games to keep things engaging. There will also be an opportunity for others to contribute games, though the company will test them before they are officially added to the platform.
With the advent of things like the Xbox Kinect that use a player's physical motion to interact with the game, tgoma stands apart because it requires actual activity over mere motion. Additionally, integrating technology with a trampoline means that users have to go outside and get some fresh air in order to use it.
Making electronics meant to be left outdoors was no small feat. "Lots of people take their tablet into the backyard but they're not exposing it to the environment," Holmes pointed out. Making tgoma capable of standing up to the elements was one of the most challenging aspects of development. Another difficulty was making sure the sensors could accurately determine where a jumper landed, as any discrepancies would take away from the fun of the game.
Right now, tgoma is only available with Springfree trampolines. All new trampolines come with tgoma already installed and it is available to retrofit on the brand's existing products. Of course, not every family with a child hooked on technology has the yard space or financial means to purchase a high-end trampoline to use tgoma.
Holmes shares that the company is looking forward at other ways of bringing technology outside in an activity-based way, but didn't provide any clues as to what can be expected from that.
"We see the trampoline as the first [tgoma-enabled] device, but we don't see it as the last," Holmes says.
Learn more about tgoma over on Springfree's website.