Atkins Launches “Sugar Goggles” VR
March 15, 2017 – Atkins has taken their Hidden Sugar campaign to a more immersive experience by integrating a virtual reality game aimed at educating kids about the power sugar has in their body. HealthiAR founder Kristi Hansen Onkka got to try out the beta launch of the game at CES 2017. The goal was simple: navigate through the bloodstream targeting healthy foods. The player is given the option to choose a food high in sugar, or low in sugar. If the player targets a food that is low on the glycemic index, they remain in steady control of the game. However, if they choose a food that is higher in sugar, they will lose control due to the sugar spike. This simple “lack of control” scenario is a visceral feeling that one cannot get from watching a video or reading a pamphlet about sugar spikes. Sugar Goggles gives kids real-time feedback about what bad food choices are actually doing to their bodies.
Kristi spoke with Jennifer Livingston, director of public relations for Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. She is excited that Atkins has partnered with HealthCorps, founded by heart surgeon and Daytime Emmy Award-winning host Dr. Mehmet Oz and his wife Lisa, to bring the Sugar Goggles virtual reality game to high school students. The partnership brings diabetes and nutritional curriculums to high school students nationwide. The Sugar Goggles virtual reality game revolutionizes the delivery of this education in a way that is more relevant to teenagers. The immersive gamification of glycemic charts and nutritional data is a powerful tool for changing minds. And because each game is an individual experience, it provides first-person account of food choice effects.
The following article via Chris Morris of CNBC sums up the Sugar Goggles story:
Video games, in general, don’t do much for your waistline. While there was a brief surge of interest in exercise-themed titles in 2009–2010, the fad fizzled — and players happily returned to their couches, controllers in hand.
The rise of virtual reality could alter that slightly, as many of today’s games keep you moving and sometimes work up a good sweat. But Atkins Nutritionals, a company founded by Dr. Robert Atkins that promotes low-carbohydrate foods, is looking at the health benefits of VR through a different set of lenses. The company, at CES earlier this month, debuted a virtual reality game it hopes will help children (and adults) learn to make smarter choices when choosing what to eat.
“This is the first generation that’s going to have a shorter lifespan than their parents because of obesity,” says Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education at Atkins Nutritionals. “If we can get them young and educate them about better choices, that might help.”
The game’s called “Sugar Goggles” — and let’s be very clear up front: It’s not going to win any best of 2017 awards for its game play. Players don a VR headset (demos were given on HTC’s Vive) and navigate their way through gold rings inside of what appears to be a human vein. (A disembodied set of hands moving with the VR system’s controllers helps them target the rings.)
After each ring, you encounter two plates with different foods. For instance, a banana and a whole-wheat bagel. Fly through the one that has the lowest impact on your blood sugar and you’ll get an in-game energy burst. Choose poorly and you’re told you’ve had a blood sugar spike and will be temporarily thrown off course.
Think of it as the gamification of “Eat This, Not That.”
It’s a short game, it doesn’t fully take advantage of what VR is capable of, and it’s graphically clunky, but it does have its heart in the right place and it’s the first virtual reality attempt to help educate people about the impacts of certain foods and, ideally, help them retrain their eating habits. A pair of 2016 reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 38 percent of U.S. adults are obese, while 17 percent of teenagers fit that classification.
“Normally, you would assume a low-carbohydrate diet would have a good effect, but people think they have to cut out all carbohydrates,” says Heimowitz. “Based on the glycemic load index, where they actually test the food and test the impact on blood sugar, we developed this game to educate people on the impact carbohydrates have on blood sugar.”
The mission of “Sugar Goggles” isn’t necessarily weight control, claims Atkins. Instead, it’s meant as an educational tool that could prevent people from losing the battle of the bulge.
“We developed this game to educate people on the impact carbohydrates have on blood sugar.”
-Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education, Atkins Nutritionals
“If you regulate your blood sugar, you’ll burn more fat,” says Heimowitz. “If there’s less blood sugar around, the body will resort to its backup fuel system, which is fat burning. So yeah, if you can control your blood sugar, you can lose weight — as well as have healthy heart benefits, control diabetes and have more energy.”
With the CES debut of “Sugar Goggles” behind it, the company says it next plans to bring it to classrooms in the coming months to help kids make smart decisions earlier.
That could cause a few hurdles for the company, depending on the age range they target. Most VR headsets recommend users be 13 or older. Because the technology is so new, though, there haven’t been any academic studies investigating the effects of VR on children’s eyes. (Atkins says it doesn’t expect that to be an issue since it is working with HealthCorps and plans to target high school students.)
One thing is clear: As of now, says Heimowitz, there are no plans to release “Sugar Goggles” publicly via Steam or other PC digital distribution services that would make it available to the public at large.
It’s very much a first-generation effort, but Atkins says to expect future versions if it’s embraced by kids.
For more about the Sugar Goggles initiative and the Atkins/HealthCorps partnership, please read this press release.