eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam have gotten most of the attention for their do-gooder efforts through their investment firm the Omidyar Network. But back in 2001, Pam Omidyar also founded a nonprofit research group called HopeLab, which is announcing a new project to try to reduce youth obesity.
Specifically, HopeLab has spun off and invested $1 million into for-profit company called Zamzee, which is supposed to launch a limited beta test of its product in the first half of 2011 followed by a full launch later that year.
You can watch HopeLab’s Richard Tate describe Zamzee in this video, which was recorded at the Health 2.0 conference. On a conceptual level, it sounds similar to Fitbit, a device that adults clip to their clothes to automatically track calories burned through exercise and daily activity. But Zamzee tries to tailor the concept to young teens, who probably don’t spend hours at the gym, and who need a little more incentive to exercise.
As Tate explains, the Zamzee activity meter includes a three-axis accelerometer designed to track any kind of activity, so teens can get their exercise in whatever form they prefer, and it can come from increased activity throughout the day, rather than a focused workout. (Not that Fitbit is limited to treadmills or whatever.) To encourage teens to exercise, Zamzee will offer them both physical and virtual goods as rewards.
Frankly, I have a hard time imagining my teenage self being willing to wear a fitness device all day — I felt nerdy enough already. But Zamzee says early tests show that the program increases physical activity by 30 percent.