Introduction

The Austrian Broadcasting Service (ORF) built a garden of sustainability which should educate kids about the topic. Billboards with diagrams and quizzes on it were placed in a garden labyrinth but the project leaders soon realized that kids of the digital native generation were bored by this approach and instead played games on their smartphones. Our University was contacted and asked for help so we designed new learning experiences which could be embedded location-based and with augmented reality technology in a playful way in this garden. The project was so successful that we started a spin-off company called Polycular developing the vision of location-based learning and sustainable life style tracking even further. Our vision is a game app which makes it fun to learn about sustainability and save CO2 by taking better choices in regards to consumption, energy and mobility. EcoGotchi is a living creature on your phone which well-being is dependent on the player’s skills, knowledge and behavior. It is fed by wisdom, gained experiences through adventures and saved CO2. We use altruistic and gamification principles to generate a long-term motivation for our players. It can be compared to a real world version of the facebook game “farm ville” in which you care for your virtual companion, experience adventures together and as a side effect learn things about climate change and how everyone can contribute to change. Learning is not just about facts it is as well about behavioral change, buildup of an identity and transformation. We want to inspire digital natives to live a fair and green lifestyle and get a positive feedback for it by emotionalizing boring saved CO2 kg numbers. So let’s play away CO2.

Synopsis

Objective

If you ask people if they would help to save Tuvalu from drowning, everyone will tell you “Sure, but how”. Then you tell them how to save CO2 and some of them will actually take the train, buy local goods or save energy but after a while they will get comfortable again and will fall back to their old consuming patterns. This is where our game tries to help and motivates day by day anew with challenging new missions, riddles and games. Comparing your EcoGotchi to others in the social net is a competitive fun way to get to know new friends and to save our planet.
Our app gives real-time location-based hints for users and directs their lives towards more sustainable choices in a fun and entertaining way. Everyone can easily save up to 6kg CO2 a day with just small adaptions to his/her lifestyle, which is a reduction of a about a ⅓ - ¼ of the average CO2 equivalent a person would need in Austria per day. EcoGotchi is your nagging conscience in form of a virtual creature that is dependent on your behavior and who helps you with this goal. Knowledge how to save CO2 is one thing, but the more important one is long-term motivation and this is where EcoGotchi's is always pushing you. We want to raise awareness of the younger digital native generation and use a combination of games, hints and coupon gamification. Small changes all together make the biggest change.
See our infographics here for more in depth calculations for the Austrian market:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/rqnq9nz0wiu1we2/%C3%96koGotschi%20EndReport_Seite_06.png?dl=0

Approach

Our approach uses gamification with newest location-based Augmented Reality game play for educating about sustainability and saving CO2. We consider this to be the adequate means to address our target group of kids between 10 and 18. Our pilot project was opened in the garden of sustainability and will be played by over 5000 kids a year, so we already see this as a big accomplishment. Gamification is nothing new and already a wornout buzzword but with clever game play, storytelling, evolution of a character and a location based realtime tutor on your smartphone who advises you what you could do in your surroundings to save CO2 we still think our idea is unique innovative and will make a change.
For examples see the video here: http://vimeo.com/101958634 https://vimeo.com/133549242

Engagament

We managed to engage a fan base of over 8000 likes on facebook and involved already some schools to use our system in their classes. With a team of 6 highly motivated engineers, artists and teachers we are eager to bring this project to the next level. We would really love to spread EcoGotchi over Europe and even further. One of our next developments is that we build an online editor with which school classes and teachers can design their own location-based AR learning games and riddles to expand the EcoGotchi universe or just to use our technology for another learning purpose. We would love to see our developed technology (CluStAR) to be used by different lessons like history, geography, art and biology. There are numerous examples how and where our tech could be leveraged to convey an interesting way of learning with and through technology. Images in museums come alive, AR holograms of victims of World War II tell their story in a concentration camp and the school garden becomes a battle field of knowledge.

Impact

Our project is ongoing and we are currently rolling out our first version to Austrian schools for free coming with didactic material accompanying the game (augmented reality workshop booklet). In schools smartphone-use is normally forbidden but why not actively engage mobile technology to learn and have fun?
We target a younger generation with their beloved medium computer games combined with mobile social networks and innovation like Augmented Reality. We are confident that games can transport culture, knowledge, values and can change behavior and the world. To measure the impact is currently beyond our possibilities. Regarding our user tests with 300 kids we got very good feedback, optimization tips and we hope that our rollout will prove our assumptions and field tests. We hope that our game will be actively played by a huge community which would save lots of CO2.
Our solution is fun that’s what is different to most educative programs trying to promote the topic of sustainability. Games are fun, we love to collect, compete, collaborate, search treasures, run around and discover new territories and friends, why not combine everything and serve our Planet. We might be dreamers, but we are awake.

Next Steps

We finished EcoGotchi Junior which is an augmented reality location-based sustainability game for kids but our greater vision is a lifestyle tracker app and game which rewards players for living green, which we are working on currently. Our media partner is the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation which is a great help in promoting this idea to kids. Our research partner is the University of Applied Science Salzburg another partner is the government of Salzburg. All are helpful in promoting the idea and creating a player base/community. The more will play the game the more CO2 will be saved. Our main issues at the moment are financing and some technological problems we have to overcome. A team of 6 people are working part time on the project and we can’t pay them much but after all the work we put in we have a pilot up and running, investors and big brands get interested and in the following months we hope to establish commercial partnerships with ecological brands, transport and energy companies. In the beginning of 2016 we are invited to the Silicon Valley for 3 months to develop our idea further in the Plug And Play Tech Incubator. Furthermore we are part of the European Union climate accelerator for the best ideas to stop climate change. As a nice side effect we developed a complete SDK and system (CluStAR) for location-based AR game play and storytelling which can be used in various other contexts of learning and information (tourism, history, art, …).

Other Information

PDF - Click to download
Project Website - EcoGotchi
YouTube Gallery - EcoGotchi Videos on Vimeo
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