NJ hospital JV tries gamification, crowdfunding for children’s health

By: Neil Versel | Jan 8, 2013        

Tags: | | | | | |  |

iMPak Health EmmettiMPak Health, Neptune City, N.J.-based creator of pocket-sized devices for ECG testing, sleep monitoring and pain management, is turning to crowdsourcing to fund its latest offering, a foray into gamification. However, the outreach has struggled to gain momentum.

iMPak, a joint venture of New Jersey hospital system Meridian Health and Swedish wireless technology vendor Cypak, has listed “Emmett’s Family Vacation” on crowdfunding site Kickstarter. The title is the first in a planned series of books and mobile games for young children — likely grades 2-4 — aimed at encouraging healthy behaviors and choices.

Children try to help a robot named Emmett get reunited with his family after they got separated on an intergalactic vacation to New York City. According to the Kickstarter posting, Emmett gets energy to contact his family only when kids are active.

“In this first book, children will learn that physical activity is necessary to be energized,” the posting says. The book will come with a pedometer and a vinyl Emmett character.

“Kids will be able to wear the pedometer each day and upload their steps to a mobile Emmett game.  Once the steps are loaded into the mobile game, their own personal Emmett will travel from their current location (GPS based) in a random direction,” the site says. Users earn badges for hitting movement milestones. “The motivation to keep Emmett traveling in the game will help motivate kids to take more steps each day,” according to iMPak.

The next story will focus on developing healthy sleep habits and dealing with stress, if iMPak lands enough money. However, the effort had raised less than $100 of the hoped-for $25,000 through Friday since it was posted Dec. 26. iMPak must hit the goal by Feb. 9. Donors of at least $250 are promised an appearance in cartoon form in the second book.

This Kickstarter project represents a break in several ways from earlier iMPak offerings, including its target audience, technology and funding strategy. The common thread of the three earlier creations since the joint venture launched in 2010 is that all use near-field communications (NFC) technology that is just starting to show up in commercial smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S III.