The BBC News Channel recently carried a report on the "obesity epidemic" that's plaguing children in the United Kingdom. The numbers backing that report are both stupendous and shocking - 28% of boys and 36% of girls in Britain are obese and experts predict that after the next 4 years, childhood obesity in Europe will increase at the rate of 1.3 million children a year! Kids, today, cannot think beyond their next meal of junk food and fizzy drinks; exercise, to them, is a non-entity. A UK -wide survey by The Heart Charity also showed that most children aren't even trying to fight the 'flab' simply because they are unaware of obesity's golden axiom - "I am deadly".
And thus was born the "Yoobot"! "Yoobot" - You and Your Virtual Robot
"Yoobot" is a free online game and learning tool for children which encourages them to take responsibility for their health and lifestyle. Conceptualized, created and published by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) in November 2008 as part of its Food4Thought Campaign, a yoobot is designed to be a virtual carbon copy of a child's lifestyle. As a responsible 'yoobot-parent', the player gets to decide what and when, how much and how often the yoobot eats, whether it exercises or not, how much it sleeps and other elaborate lifestyle details. Playing Yoobot
What can you do with a mini-version of yourself? Read on…
• You can be 'born again' online as a yoobot (It's called 'hatching a yoobot')
• Personalize your yoobot by uploading your picture to create a "look alike" version
• Clothe it, decorate its room, talk to it!
• Feed it whatever you want, whenever you want (an exclusive delicious extra-cheese burger every hour or a boring, green salad for dinner)
• You can make it do what you want it to do (exercise, sleep, read, or just mope around all day)
• Set your yoobot's diet and exercise habits (similar to your own)
• Maintain a daily blog of activities (if any!), thoughts, ideas, pranks etc
• Meet the yoobot-moderator Professor Gunter von Gunter (Inventor of Yoobotics) and his infamous moustache!
• Keep in touch with your yoobot-child 24*7 (your yoobot can even SMS or email you when it's hungry!)
• Fast forward to the future and check out how good/bad you will be doing when you're old
• If you take good care of your baby-yoobot, it can even live till a 100 (1 human day equals 3 yoobot years)
• Since you've decided how your miniature lives, the yoobot will decide how and when it dies Yoobotic-Implications
With forecasts of about two-thirds of all children being overweight by 2050, yoobots can be a fun way to reinforce the idea of a healthy lifestyle in your children. Kids will understand the extent of havoc junk food and a lack of exercise can wreak in their lives. If something bad can happen to a child's virtual carbon copy, chances are it's gonna happen to them too! The Yoobot Revolution
The BHF has said that since the launch of the first yoobot, over 200,000 yoobots have been created. The site has also received more than 500,000 hits in the two weeks post its November commencement. Betty McBride, director of Policy and Communications at the BHF said: "It's fantastic to see so many kids having fun while getting life-saving information about heart health at the same time."
Children can create their personal yoobots at http://www.yoobot.co.uk/yoobot.html
. Parental consent is required to play the game. While an online game cannot aspire to replace a qualified medical practitioner's advice on health and lifestyle modifications, it can however inform and educate children on the implications of unhealthy lifestyle choices. More on the BHF
The British Heart Foundation is a registered charity of the United Kingdom. True to its catchphrase of "Beating Heart Disease Together", it is a pioneering organization in heart research and visualizes a world sans premature heart disease. BHF's Food4Thought Campaign raises awareness on the obesity epidemic through endeavors like road shows and now yoobotics. It is currently garnering support for government action on junk food advertising and food labeling in the UK. Play On…
So, what's stopping you? If you know someone with a weight-problem, suggest the game to them. Or you could try it too. Go on and have fun! But don't miss the moral of your "virtual life story"!