New Technology for Promotion of Physical Activity: The Case of Ingress

Grumpy cat Ingress meme

Rapid development of new technologies ripped us off the benefits of exercising and live socialising. We no longer need to climb stairs because we have elevators and escalators, there is no need to walk because we have cars, segways and mobility scooters, instead of playing outside, kids stay in their rooms playing on the computers, and there is no need to physically be with the person in order to communicate with them because we have mobile phones, online video calls and social networking.

Then the same technology started to be used to motivate us and promote physical activity. We have pedometers, accelerometers and GPS tracking software (e.g. Endomondo) to measure our physical activity and track our progress overtime. We can share our exercising achievements with friends on social networks. We have software that reduces our sitting time at work by forcing us to have a break and move around a bit. Even video games became more active making us physically perform whatever is expected of us to complete the challenge. Oh, and we even have a metro ticket machine that accepts squats as payment. This time I will discuss a smartphone game that makes you walk, walk a lot!
Ingress poster

The World Around You Is Not What It Seems
Ingress screenshot

For those who are not aware, Ingress is a near real-time augmented reality game. The story goes that some exotic matter, the energy, was seeded over the earth and portals have appeared at the places of public interest (sculptures, memorials, etc.). It affects everything around us and there is the need to understand this mysterious energy better.

The two fractions (teams) emerge to fight for control over portals. Resistance (blue) aka Smurfs is driven by the idea to protect humanity from the new force (conservatives :P) and Enlightenment (green) aka Frogs is driven by the idea that the new force will uplift the mankind (liberals?).

Enlightenment vs. Resistance meme

Agents of both teams create new portals, hack each other’s portals to gain resources, destroy and overtake them, make links between portals and create fields to get points, level-up and be able to build even stronger portals.

Sounds like a regular computer game, except that you actually have to be physically present at the location of the portal in order to hack or overtake it! Want to control the city? Get out of the house and ingress.


Physical Benefits

 

Ingress portal screenshot

As already mentioned, Ingress makes you walk from portal to portal, because in order to hack it, you have to be closer than 40 m away. Furthermore, Ingress actually counts the distance you walked, and sometimes you are surprised to find out you made 10 km today, but usually you’re just very satisfied about the number of portals hacked and links made.

 
“Honey, I’m waking up early tomorrow to hack some portals on the way to work”

 

“Where took you so long?”…. “Oh, I made a detour to hack some portals”

 

 

 

 
Ingress walking in circles meme
Conversations like this were so common with my boyfriend that I had to start 

ingressing myself. I also heard stories like this one: daddy went for a walk with a baby sleeping in a pram and did not notice how they ingressed for four hours until concerned wife started calling. Baby gets a long nap in fresh air, daddy gets a workout, and mommy gets some peace and quiet, all happy!




Social Benefits

 

Group of people playing Ingress

Although it may seem at first like a lonesome and unsocial activity, it actually has many social benefits. First of all, you occasionally meet other people ingressing on the street and start talking to them, sharing experiences and even resources (assuming you’re on the same team). You chat with people from your team online about the strategies, plan meetings and group ingress sessions. And… actually meet people and play the game together walking in town as a group. It is, after all, a team game, and to be effective against the opponent you have to be cohesive. Therefore, such messages as ‘Hey, the town turned blue, who’s up for painting it green?’ tickle your sense of responsibility to the team and you get up and go out to the cold to do the job. And the cutest part is when two people are ingressing together back to back watching over each other to avoid muggers. Now that’s the real team spirit! And it’s all for a common goal and greater good.


To Conclude

 

Ingress exercise meme

Although some concerns have been voiced that through Ingress Google is gathering location data that it is going to use for some evil plan, and although some people take the game so seriously that there is a risk it will turn to real-life physical gang fight over the zones of influence in the city… It is still a much better choice to grab your smartphone and go out to hack some portals than sit in front of the computer or TV.

I hear it makes you fitter, more resistant to adverse environment conditions, more present and aware of your surroundings, and even allows you to learn new things about your city… As a mid-level agent, I must agree! 🙂

Ingress player development stages
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