Pokémon Go might be getting young people off the couch, but an award-winning new app will give them the chance to connect and make new friends while exercising when it is piloted for the first time at the University of Sydney this July.
The free Meet and Move app offers students and staff a new way to break the ice on campus, providing a simple way to 'meet' at locations across the University's main campus and 'move' across the city using signposted routes.
Founded by Bridget Foley, a research officer from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health, the app recently won a $10,000 grant at Samsung's Adappt Bootcamp – an app development kickstarter for social good projects driven by young people – helping it launch from concept phase to reality.
"The idea is based on the 'walking school bus' concept, where people can get together and walk safely from one place to another in a group, rather than taking public transport or driving," said Ms Foley, an alumna of the University of Sydney (BAppSc(Ex&SportSc) '13; MPHlth '14).
Pokémon Go has recently boosted the number of people walking, which is great for physical and mental health, but it would be even better if you could meet groups of students to talk to while you walk.
"Meet and Move provides a platform for people to chat to others, see their interests and what they’re studying before meeting up at set locations for a stroll."
Routes in the app were crowdsourced from students and staff and take users across campus and on to nearby sites including Glebe, Broadway, Victoria Park and Redfern train station. Developed with tech partner, Boomworks, each walk in the app ranges from 10 to 30 minutes long and groups depart every 15 minutes.
Though the pilot will initially be offered exclusively to University of Sydney students and staff, the app is already gaining interest from companies and local government bodies keen to boost productivity, fitness and engagement in their communities. Data will also be collected in the pilot to guide future research in the Charles Perkins Centre into the effectiveness of such apps in helping people boost their fitness levels and meet new people.
"The University is such a huge place that it can be really daunting trying to meet people, apart from those in your own classes. If you’re not super extroverted or involved in all the clubs and societies, I think this app will be the perfect tool to help people socialise in a new way," said Megan Reid, a fourth year Health Sciences Honours student.
"I know my way around now but I still plan on using the app, because it's always more fun to walk and talk instead of just plugging in my headphones."
"These kinds of apps are particularly important for young adults, who typically decrease their physical activity levels while studying," added Ms Foley.
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