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This is how Pokemon Go is aligned to health goals

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Pokemon Go game has finally been launched in South Africa – offering possibilities in terms of encouraging fitness, particularly among the youth, as players take to walking or running in an effort to “catch em all”, writes DEBBIE VALENTINI of Agility Health.

The game uses a player’s physical location to reveal hidden Pokemons, which are animated fantasy animal characters, on the game’s map interface. Even before the game’s official release in South Africa, scores of players could already be seen walking around searching for nearby characters.

Pokemon Go’s potential for encouraging physical activity has piqued the interest of Zurreal, the health, wellbeing and financial services partner to all Resolution Health Medical Scheme members. At Zurreal we are all about rewarding members for healthy behaviours, and we support any development that may promote exercise.

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Pokemon Go is a case in point because catching the game’s characters during daily workout activities, such as walking, running or even cycling, can make getting and staying in shape much more fun.

People have been making the most of their lunch breaks by going in search of Pokemon, and even a short, brisk lunchtime walk can contribute to fitness – especially when it becomes a regular part of one’s routine. Furthermore, incorporating regular exercise into your day can improve concentration and refocus the mind for improved productivity in the workplace.

One aspect of the game, which incorporates augmented reality technology, is that certain real-world locations serve as digital “Pokestops”, where players can collect bonus items that make the game easier.

One of the items that can be picked up is an egg that hatches after a player has walked a distance of 2km, 5km or 10km, revealing another character to be added to the player’s collection. Pokemon eggs are a great way to reward yourself if you have goals to cover a particular distance in your morning cardiac exercise.

Incubate a 5km egg at the start of your run, and you can be assured that you will be rewarded with a surprise Pokemon for your efforts at the end of it. Even better, the eggs with longer distance goals typically give better quality Pokemon.

As Zurreal, we appreciate the importance of rewards, but we know that people are sometimes tempted to ruin their healthy gains by rewarding themselves with unhealthy food treats or expensive luxuries when they meet their daily fitness goals. It should be remembered, however, that this could add feelings of guilt or stress, and counteract the benefits of the exercise.

The Zurreal Platinum rewards programme gives members up to R13 400 in cash back each year to incentivise regular exercise, taking care of their health, and participating in outdoor sporting events. These rewards are tallied up quarterly, and so Pokemon Go is a perfect complement to the Zurreal programme as it offers instant gratification.

Not only are players getting more exercise, Pokemon Go appears to be creating more opportunities for players to socialise in the real world. It may be something of a stereotype, but some young people who identify as gamers may be more comfortable interacting online than ‘irl’ – that is a gaming language acronym for ‘in real life’.

Pokemon Go players can load Pokemon ‘lures’ at Pokestops and everyone in the vicinity can benefit from these. For half an hour, more Pokemon spawn at that location than usual and players flock to these areas.

Real-world locations that are game attractions appear to be bringing Pokemon fans together, where they can connect with peers and discuss the game, strategies and other points of common interest. It is easy to spot fellow players and the game is an obvious conversation-starter, making social interaction less stressful for reserved individuals.

We would, however, like to remind players to exercise due caution and consider ‘stranger danger’ when engaging with any new acquaintances or before rushing off to a Pokestop that is ‘luring’ Pokemon.

We have heard reports in other countries of criminals using these digital lures to catch victims rather than Pokemon. Criminals may set lures at Pokestops in poorly lit, lonely areas, for example, and attack unsuspecting fans that show up to catch the Pokemon characters. Remember that the mobile phones the game is played on often have significant value, which makes this an attractive scheme for criminals.

It is important that players make smart decisions and stay vigilant to avoid becoming a target. By following a few simple safety tips and avoiding ‘stranger danger’, the game can be safe and fun while simultaneously encouraging fitness.

Tips for staying safe while playing Pokemon Go:

  • Never visit Pokestops after dark, in poorly lit or unsecure areas. Rather stick to busy, well-lit areas and do not go alone.
  • Do not exchange personal information with strangers
  • Do not leave open, public areas with a stranger to go somewhere else – staying in well populated locations can make is more difficult for criminals to target you.
  • Do not provide lifts to anyone you just met.
  • Remember that all the normal rules apply to making new friends while playing Pokemon Go. Although it can feel like you share a deep connection through your love of the game, fellow players may have more sinister motives, such as trying to “catch” you or your valuables.
  • If a situation feels unsafe – trust your instincts and leave. If you are alone, call a family member or nearby friend, let them know where you are and that you feel unsafe. Tell them where you are planning to go and how you are planning to get there. Head for the nearest busy public place, and if the stranger is not following you, head home or to another safe locate.

* Debbie Valentini, GM of Marketing, Communications and Rewards at Agility Health

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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