Xysti, a new way to discover sport and physical activity

During summer 2016, I had to work out what I wanted the focus of my final year project at Brunel University. I wanted to do something which I could continue to work on after the project had finished, using the 6 months or so while doing the project to create an MVP and do some user research.

During that time, I was also working at imin as a JavaScript developer. I quickly realised I could potentially use the imin platform to create a new, innovative way to find physical activity sessions and facilities. I was also keenly aware of the development in chatbots, following on from Facebook’s announcement at F8 2016 of a Messenger Platform and Slack’s introduction of their own platform.

So I decided that the focus of my project would be developing a chatbot, using the Facebook Messenger platform, to make it easier for people to discover, and book (although this is not “proper” booking and simply acts as a prototype for how it would work).

I have used natural language as the main interface for the chatbot, so you can say something like “where can I play tennis tomorrow afternoon in uxbridge?”. The chatbot will then return within a few seconds with the options which the imin API has found that satisfies the query.

I have also developed a small web app to act as a companion to the chatbot, because I think there’s some things which an app can do better than the chatbot, such as showing more details about the session.

I have decided to name it Xysti; a xysti (or xystus) was part of a gymnasium in Ancient Greece, which would be a covered area where people could exercise in winter or bad weather.

Below is a short video Xysti in action:

Obviously, there is still a lot of work to do on this and and there are many features I want to introduce so you can easily find a session or facility suited to you. These features include:

  • Payments over Messenger.
  • Finding people to play with (e.g. a partner for a tennis game), or someone local to you is looking for a partner and you’re notified.
  • Group booking and equal payment between members (no more “I’ll pay and you each owe me £5”); Facebook are rumoured to be introducing group chatbots at F8 2017, making this possible.
  • Advice on equipment purchase if you’re new to the sport (and potentially ordering it through the bot).
  • Using Machine Learning to understand user’s preferences and likes and dislikes, so that similar sports can be suggested to them (for example, if you like squash, you may like tennis or badminton).
  • More platforms!

Xysti is currently in pre-Alpha - I’m planning to launch it as a private alpha soon. If you would like to help me test it during this stage, I’d be honoured if you would sign up on xysti.co. Thank you!

I’m also looking for potential collaborators who could help me to develop Xysti; co-founders if you will (except Xysti is not a startup and probably never will be). I’m currently looking for two roles: a UX designer (with experience and knowledge of chatbot interaction design) and a marketing/branding guru. Ideally, you’d be based in London and passionate about getting people more active! If interested, shoot me an email.

I’m really looking forward to taking this further as a side-project and hope to have more news and announcements about Xysti soon!