Guitar Hero inventors to gamify exercise equipment

By Jonah Comstock
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Blue Goji CEO Kai Huang Blue Goji CEO Kai Huang

Brothers Charles and Kai Huang, the co-founders of Red Octane and inventors of Guitar Hero, have set their sights on health gaming. AllThingsD is reporting that the pair's new company, Blue Goji, is coming out of stealth mode with a new take on gamified fitness: hardware that turns treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes into fitness-driven arcades.

Kai Huang, the CEO, told AllThingsD's Eric Johnson that the goal of Blue Goji is to make games that won't just help people pass the time while they work out, but will be compelling enough to keep people coming back to the gym when they otherwise would not. It's similar to the idea behind Six to Start's popular Zombies, Run! app, which aims to make running more interesting and to keep runners hooked with a continuous storyline.

But Zombies, Run! is limited to an audio-only experience, so that runners can safely navigate where they're going. Blue Goji is focusing on stationary exercise machines, which allows the company to incorporate a screen for immersive gaming, more like the Microsoft Kinect or Wii Fit. According to AllThingsD, the games are controlled by a small, clip-on activity tracker and two black bands with buttons that can be strapped to the handles of an exercise bike or elliptical machine. Two batons can be substituted for the handles for use on the treadmill. The controllers will connect to a user's mobile device via Bluetooth, and the device serves as the screen for gamers. The company appears to have hired San Francisco-based design firm Y Studios to design the controllers.

Charles and Kai Huang have also been involved with wearable activity and heart rate tracker the Basis Band, joining its board of advisors in late 2011, around the same time Blue Goji was launched. According to Angel List, Kai Huang is also an investor in Rock Health startup Zipongo.

Blue Goji has offices in Santa Clara, California and Austin, Texas. In addition to the Huang brothers, the company lists OpenLink founder Coleman Fung as a co-founder and Nintendo and Activision veteran Zach Fountain as chief operating officer.

AllThingsD reports that Blue Goji "will start by making games in-house, with ambitions of becoming a platform open to outside developers as soon as possible," but Blue Goji's website suggests they may even be further along than that.

"Attention iOS and Android Game Developers," the company's website says. "We’d love to see your games working with the Goji Play game system! With Blue Goji's easy-to-implement SDK, your games could be reach an entirely new audience in very little time."