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AI-Driven App Combines Fitness, STEM for Elementary Schools

The game-based Luca & Friends app uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to integrate education and fitness, challenging kids to answer quiz questions using basic movements such as stretching or jumping.

Luca & Friends app.jpeg
A child plays an interactive learning game on the Luca & Friends app, responding to questions with movements which the A.I. reads as answers.
Photo credit: GOFA International
It seems the need for exercise in children is more urgent than ever, with the World Health Organization reporting in 2020 that most children across the globe were falling short of the recommended 60 minutes per day. GOFA International, a global tech startup that launched an artificial intelligence-driven fitness and nutrition app for adults last month, believes it has a solution to help children achieve their physical activity needs.

The company, which was founded in June 2021 and has offices in San Francisco and Hong Kong, recently announced the launch of its Luca & Friends app for kids aged 4 to 8. In the app, kids play educational games in subjects such as English or science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with a fitness element. The app uses the same technology as GOFA (Goal Oriented Fitness App) for adults, the company said.

“Luca's magic mantra to ‘move, learn, play’ uses technology to fix sedentary lifestyles and make fitness a habit in a child's formative years,” GOFA co-founder and CEO Wayne Chung told Government Technology in an email.

According to the app's website, users can go to different worlds of learning and movement with the main character, Prince Luca, and his friends. Along the way, the app asks kids questions which they can answer using basic movements such as stretching or jumping, which are read and recognized by an AI. The hope, according to the company, is that doing these movements will make up for some of the activity lost in modern-day life.

“During (the COVID-19 pandemic) lockdown, I observed how sitting in one position for hours, watching videos on the tablet, was making him lethargic,” Chung said of his son, the inspiration for the app’s creation. “The idea to have a product that targeted fitness for the body and mind took seed. As the technology was already tested and in use for GOFA, Luca & Friends came to life to fill the gaping void in terms of fitness for kids.”

While there are numerous fitness apps available for youngsters, such as Yoga for Kids, FitnessKids and Sworkit Kids, GOFA's news release said Luca & Friends is the only one in the U.S. that uses AI to integrate both fitness and education.

Chung said the app will help the kids build strength, endurance, coordination and flexibility, in addition to learning from more than 100 lessons curated by accredited teachers and trainers. To keep kids active and motivated in the app, there are loyalty and rewards programs, he said, and a playback mode where the user can see themselves move during gameplay. By the end of February, GOFA expects to add a dashboard for parents to track their child’s play history and growth status, as well as a quiet mode for kids to revert to touchscreen play when they don’t have the opportunity to move.

“The motion capture technology, gamified learning in English and STEM topics, recording and playback capability, and multi-user capacity all make Luca & Friends a uniquely innovative app,” Chung said.

Available on Apple and Android devices, Luca & Friends has surpassed 10,000 downloads since its official launch in December, Chung said. GOFA has also partnered with the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong to provide the app to its members, and Chung said he hopes to expand the partnership to include YMCA facilities across the globe, including in the U.S. The expansion would then open the door for other educators to add more content to the service.

“This expansion will allow us to support more families affected by the COVID pandemic and offer their kids the choice of healthier lifestyle and learning through play,” he said, noting that the company plans to provide free access through the partnership.

Beyond that, Chung said he hopes GOFA and Luca & Friends will expand its reach into the underserved rehabilitation and recovery physiotherapy space.

“Our goal is to make this accessible to the masses,” he said.
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.