Gene Lu's Portfolio

Nike+ Plus Dogs

Thesis has taken over my life. Activities like eating three meals a day, getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night, and going to the gym have gone out the window. With the latter in mind, I’ve been thinking more about how physical activities, like running, could be incentivized during times of low motivation. If everyone around me is suffering from low motivation, who could I rely on to get me out the door to do a lap or two around the block?

Behavior Change through Social Support

Who or what is providing the support in this diagram? (courtesy of Frog Design)

Not surprisingly, it’s this dog!

Manju begging for attention

Manju says with his puppy eyes, "Take me for a walk... please?!"

Behavior change through the help of your dog

Behavior change through the help of your dog

About once a month, my roommate who happens to be my brother, brings his girlfriend’s dog over for the weekend. During that time, I take the dog out for a walk. Well, more like a run.

As a team, we blast down the block, racing by pedestrians, maneuvering through obstacles at warp-pedestrian-speed. During our brief sprints, I catch myself glancing over at the dog asking myself:

  • Can I outrun this guy?
  • Does he ever wonder why we’re running?
  • Does he know where we’re going?
  • Why ARE we running anyway?

The last question got me thinking about how a dog and their owner can work together as a team for a ‘greater purpose.’ Using services like Nike+, what if we were able to also track our dog’s running activity? If we could, how can tracking our dog’s running activity increase our own running activity?

Enter Doggee+ (thanks Jeff Kirsch)!

Similar to an idea that we (Derek Chan, Chia-Wei Liu, and Beatriz Vizcaino) presented in our Design Management class with Karen McGrane, Doggee+ is an online service that lets people race their virtual dogs against one another. It’s sort of like Pokemon, but with dogs.

Here’s how it works. A person’s running activity along with that of their dog’s is tracked by a service like Nike+. The pair’s running activity is then translated into virtual points on Doggee+. With these virtual points, a person can trade them in for power-ups to soup up their virtual dogs. Power-ups and add-ons could range from things like a pair of skates to a rocket backpack to a pair of hydraulically-powered wings.

So what do we do with these souped up, virtual dogs? We race them!

With Doggee+, you can pit your cute, little chiuaua against that long-legged greyhound that lives down the street in a virtual race, but in this race, the outcome is based on the amount of running done by both you and your dog.

DogE+ (naming credit goes to Jeff Kirsch)

Lunchtime Doggee+ sketch on the studio's kitchen whiteboard wall

This may not be the best, well-thought out solution, but I think the main takeaway of all of this is that we should perhaps take a closer look at how our pets can help us to be more physically active. We all know how attached people get to their pets, especially dogs, but what if we engage dog owners through their virtual dog equivalents with customization such as power-ups and add-ons, which are fueled by increased physical activities such as running?

Anyway, back to thesis work.

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  • 21 Apr 2011

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Lead UX Designer on Nike+ Running at R/GA.