Video game app promotes healthy eating

Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:23 AM
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CHICAGO, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- A video game app for smartphones promotes healthy eating behaviors by incorporating what kids eat into the game itself, U.S. inventors say.

Dennis Ai, the company's founder and a Northwestern University senior majoring in computer science and economics, and a group of entrepreneurs, said their start-up company JiveHealth was vying for a chance to win $10,000 in seed money, discuss their product with influential business leaders and meet first lady Michelle Obama.

JiveHealth is one of 10 semifinalists in the challenge. The top three, determined by voting on Facebook, will travel to Washington in March to present their innovations at the Partnership for a Healthier America's End Childhood Obesity Innovation Challenge.

"The game works the way most role-playing games do," Ai said in a statement. "Players progress through levels, challenging opponents of increasing size and strength. With each new level, the player's own character needs to be upgraded."

To upgrade characters, the game sends players on real-world missions to hunt down healthy, tasty foods. Kids then submit photos of those healthy foods that, when recognized by the app, boost the game characters, Ai said.

"We're not trying to force kids to eat broccoli or celery or foods that they don't like," Ai said. "Rather, JiveHealth is about helping kids help themselves to find healthier alternatives that they love to eat, and will continue to eat for the rest of their lives."

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