Garmin's new watch brings Disney fun to children's fitness

By Dave Muoio
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Garmin’s upcoming effort to woo younger customers will have the support of some big brands, as the company announced today that its vivofit jr. 2 wearable activity tracker will prominently feature Minnie Mouse, Captain America, and other Disney licensed characters.

“Disney is committed to creating healthier generations, and we’ve worked with Garmin to make healthy living fun with a wearable product featuring the characters and stories we know kids love,” said Josh Silverman, executive vice president, global licensing, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, said in a statement. “By combining Garmin’s expertise in wearable technologies with Disney storytelling, we’re entering a category with the potential to influence the way kids stay active.”

The new $99.99 device builds upon the core features of its predecessor — namely, daily activity counters, a point-reward system, one-year battery life, a waterproof design, and a connected smartphone app. While there are some new hardware features, such as a color screen, Garmin’s most prominent hook is the Disney-themed games and rewards that children will receive upon meeting daily goals.

“[These fitness features] paired with the Disney stories and characters that have really captured the heart of children, and adults, around the world … bring to life the possibilities and engagement that our kids can have with this concept,” Kelly Hancox, director of business development and strategic partnerships at Garmin, told MobiHealthNews. “In the US we have a childhood obesity epidemic that we have got to fight on all fronts. I think that having those products out here for parents and kids to be engaged with can help contribute to building those healthy habits for kids.”

Hancox explained that children who complete the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 60 minutes of active time daily will unlock a Disney brand-specific game within the companion app housed on a parent’s smartphone. These “adventures” are set in the Marvel, Star Wars, and traditional Disney universes, and will have players exploring a nonlinear map and meeting familiar characters. In addition, kids will unlock badges and other icons with their progress that can be displayed on the watch’s customizable digital face.

The platform’s modules and character-adorned bands are interchangeable, meaning that children can swap out their bands with those featuring another Disney brand to unlock a new adventure map and icons in the app. This means that the new mobile app, games, and accessory bands are also available for owners of the first generation vivofit jr. who purchase a new band for $29.99 — although certain features such as the social Toe-to-Toe competitive step challenge and reminder alerts are only available with vivofit jr. 2. On the other hand, parents whose children have completed their included adventure might be on the hook for another band to keep their kids moving and stave off attrition.

Although the games are primarily designed to appeal to children, Hancox stressed that the platform is designed to engage parents as well. Because children’s daily goals are handled through the phone app, it’s up to the parents to set challenges for their children; assign “reward coins” when certain tasks (including chores) are completed; and monitor their child’s steps, sleep, and schedules. If a parent is so inclined, Hancox noted, the software is compatible with Garmin’s ConnectIQ apps and supports family-wide fitness challenges using other Garmin wearables.

“This product is for the parent to purchase for their kids, and then to have that joint experience together.” Hancox said. “I think that having the responsibility element of having the chores, being able to provide the rewards and have that experience and incentive for kids to be active 60 minutes a day, and also making it fun and empowering the kids to manage their chores and responsibilities around the house [makes this] a great parenting tool that can bring parents and kids together.”