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How GOQii aims to reinvent wearable fit-tech with an army of personal wellness advisors

Jon Phillips | March 18, 2014
GOQii is a "coaching on the cloud" service that will employ thousands of wellness advisors to reach out and nudge couch potatoes via daily instant messages.

The subscription also includes once-monthly check-in calls—you get to speak to an actual human voice!—and if you pass a certain threshold in your activity plan, your coach will buzz your wristband to give you a "remote high-five." That's right, Gondal says, your coach will be the agent who hits that high-five trigger. Because if it were an algorithm, it just wouldn't feel as rewarding.

Perhaps you might reconsider that Red Bull
During a hands-on demo, Gondal showed me the GOQii mobile app to demonstrate just how personalized the advice sessions can get. Gondal asked his coach if it would be OK to drink a Red Bull to alleviate jet lag. His coach shot down energy drinks quickly, and advised Gondal to take a power nap and drink some freshly squeezed juice. In another in-app message, the coach asked Gondal if he was drinking enough water.

The whole demo seemed a bit... involved. Especially when Gondal explained that a coach might recommend specific herbal teas for combatting sleep problems. Isn't this the type of advice we would expect from a doctor, and not someone working out of the cloud-connected equivalent of a Mumbai call center? Most definitely not, Gondal says.

"We're very clear that we're not a medical service," he says. "We're not giving anyone any medical prescriptions, and we're not about exercise, and we're not a weight loss program. We're essentially focused on the Pareto principle of giving you that 20 percent of knowledge that gets you 80 percent of your results. This is largely about getting you more active, getting more sleep, and mindful eating."

The GOQii program was created by a four-person team that includes a nutritionist, a cardiovascular surgeon, and an expert in behavioral science and coaching theory. Gondal rounds out the brain trust with his own expertise in gamification strategies. (He's the founder of IndiaGames, perhaps India's largest mobile games company, which was bought by Disney in 2011 for $100 million).

According to GOQii's online FAQ, all of its coaches will undergo a training process to ensure they're "experts above and beyond a complete understanding of modern nutrition and fitness research." Gondal also told me that GOQii's coaches will be trained in "motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral theory" to make sure each customer's wellness program is properly designed for winning results.

And if basic human accountability isn't enough? There's a powerful element called Karma Points. In a nutshell, every 390 steps you take is worth a single Karma Point. The idea is to accumulate as many points as possible, and then convert them into donations for groups like Oxfam International and other charitable foundations. It's your "virtual currency for spreading good," Gondal says. And it's not an out-of-pocket expense for GOQii customers, Gondal says, as all donations are covered by GOQii partners.

 

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