Anybody want to build a fun app?

This morning in the shower, I was trying to think up with new ways to motivate folks to do little things to increase the amount of physical activity in their daily lives. As anybody who reads this blog knows, I am in love with RouteTracker, and credit my "castle-to-castle" virtual trip (current location: Cloverleaf, Texas; next stop Houston) with much of my success in losing weight over the last few months. And I can't say enough good things about my Wii Fit ... so what else can we do in this space?

Anyways, I came up with what I think would be a really fun idea, and figured that by talking about it here maybe somebody will be inspired to build it. It's on my list too, but that list is about seventeen applications deep right now -- so the reality is -- not happening from me anytime soon.

"CubeFit" is a group game intended to be played in an environment like a dorm or office building where people are reasonably spread out as they go about their workday. The objective is to score points by racing to accomplish brief exercise challenges received randomly during the day through text messaging -- a combination of flash mobs, basic office chaos and just a bit of exercise. A game may last anywhere from a few days to months. Here's how it works:

Game Setup

First, somebody starts a game at the CubeFit web site by logging in with HealthVault credentials and providing the overall game parameters:

  • Which time blocks during the week are eligible for challenges, and how many challenges should be issued during each block. Challenges are issued at random times within the blocks. For example, some groups may choose to allow challenges any weekday during lunch hour, while others may have them appear at any time of day, but only on Fridays.
  • A selection of challenges to be used in the game. Challenges involve some level of physical activity; for example, doing 10 pushups, 20 sit-ups, 30 jumping jacks or running to the kitchen to fetch a cup of water.

Next, people sign up to participate in the game. You could worry a lot about invitations and security here, but that seems like overkill. Instead, I'd just let anybody who knows the game URL sign themselves up to play. Each player supplies a nickname and their mobile phone number and carrier, so they can receive text messages.

Game Play

Now - the game is on.  During the active game blocks, the CubeFit application randomly selects a time to issue a challenge, picks a challenge from the configured set, chooses one player to be the "judge," and creates a challenge password. The judge then receives a text message like the following:

CubeFit challenge: 10 pushupsYOU ARE THE JUDGE FOR THIS CHALLENGEPassword: superbunnyReply with your location or "no" to decline.

The judge does not perform in the challenge, but automatically receives 2 points accepting the job. If the judge is able to play, they reply to the text message with their location: an office/room number or some other description that players will recognize. If for some reason they cannot, they simply reply "no" and the system will randomly select a different judge and new password. Similarly, if the system does not receive any reply within two minutes it will move on to a new judge.

Once the judge has accepted their role, the system sends out a text message to every other player in the game:

CubeFit Challenge: 10 pushupsLocation: Office 113/2248Judge Sean to reply with password and stars.

As soon as they receive the challenge message, each player must try to get to the judge's location as quickly as possible. Once at the location, they must perform the challenge in the presence of the judge. The judge then takes the player's phone and replies to their challenge message with the. In addition, the first person to finish the challenge should have one "*" character added after the password; the second-place player gets two stars; third-place gets three. The system is thus able to award points to each player:

  • First place = 5 points
  • Second place = 3 points
  • Third place = 2 points
  • All others that successfully complete the challenge within 30 minutes = 1 point

Additionally, the system records completed challenges as exercise objects in HealthVault - so users can keep a permanent record of activities over time and correlate them with other health information like weight or caloric intake.


Of course, a game like this is only fun if you can crow about your place on the Leaderboard. So the application will provide a "widget" that can be placed on sites like Facebook or blogs, showing the point leaders of a game and a particular players ranking.


And that's it ... pretty simple, but I am thinking that in an environment like ours at Microsoft, it would make for a lot of fun (not to mention great spectacle) to suddenly have people burst out of their offices and meetings to run across the building , trying to be the first one to do a bunch of jumping jacks in front of one of their co-workers. Just silly enough, but with real value at the end of the day as well.

What do you think? Want to build it? No IP protection here, babe -- go ahead and steal it, change it, whatever you want. But if you do put something together -- let me know so I can play!