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The Future of Gaming: “Obie, An Interactive Projector That Can Engage Isolated Seniors” With Ariel Almos of EyeClick

Obie’s interactive games are bringing fresh ideas and enhanced innovation to senior living facilities all over the world. Many senior facilities have told us that they have been interested in incorporating more emerging technology into their facilities for a while but they found it hard to find a product that their residents would easily understand and not be overwhelmed by. Obie presents an easy opportunity for senior living facilities to seamlessly incorporate digital technology and revamp the current way of working, integrating digital in a sector which was excluded from this revolution.

As a part of our series about what’s around the corner for the toy, game, and video game industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariel Almos of EyeClick.

Ariel Almos is the founder and CEO of EyeClick, a world leader in interactive technology for over a decade and the creator of BEAM and Obie. BEAM and Obie are award winning gaming platforms that turn any physical space to an immersive, active and highly addictive gaming experience for people of all ages.

Ariel is an experienced entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in various positions in the Israeli start-up industry. He founded EyeClick in 2004 and the company is one of the industry’s pioneers in developing and commercializing motion-based interactive gaming solutions.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Ariel! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?

I started my professional career, like many other Israeli hi-tech entrepreneurs, as a software engineer in one of the Israeli Army technological intelligence units, where I was exposed to cutting edge technologies and had the opportunity at a young age, to take part in sensitive and diverse technological projects. When I ended my military service 5 years later in 1995, I decided to pursue a childhood dream and study Product Design. I was particularly interested in human-machine interaction and how new sensor technologies can be applied to create new interfaces between physical objects and digital worlds and vice versa. The school I studied at, is a well known design school in Israel but was a bit “old fashioned” at the time with emphasis on traditional craftsmanship which I thought to be a bit disconnected from the technological developments I saw all around me. So after one year, when an opportunity came up, I decided to put on hold my design studies and join my previous commanders from my military unit as the first employee in their start-up company. The company I joined did not end up to be an exceptional success story but it was an amazing learning experience for me and allowed me to take part in the different stages of a startup company from inception to acquisition after 3.5 years, an experience which helped me a lot when I started my own company a few years later. After this company was acquired, I decided to get back to my design studies but went to a different school, with a more modern approach and emphasis on digital and interaction design. My final project in this design school was actually the basis of my current company. In this project I was trying to create a new kind of gaming console that combines physical and digital playing experience using motion sensing technology, interaction design and projection. The first game I created was a version of the classic Atari “Pong” game, one of my all time favorite games since I was a kid and played it with my father. “Pong” was a brilliant translation of a “real world” game into the digital world. In my project I tried to take it back to the physical world by projecting a “Pong like” game on the floor, allowing people to play against each other using their body movements as the “joystick”. After finishing this project I realized the endless potential in this new kind of gaming platform and decided to open my company in 2005.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started my company I met with many potential investors and business advisors who didn’t think my idea had the potential to become a scalable business. Many of them didn’t believe that “gaming” is serious business or that I could compete with the industry giants and suggested that I would use this technology as an interactive out-of-home advertising platform. Since I didn’t have much business experience, I thought they probably know better than me and for several years, I tried to build my business around interactive advertising with the hope it would become a big business. After several years of doing different projects without ability to scale up, I decided to take the risk and get back to my original idea — a gaming platform that combines digital games and physical play. I thought I am taking a huge risk against the better judgment of smarter people with more business experience than me but surprisingly, after making this move the company started making a shift towards growth and profitability. I’ve made countless business decisions ever since and while I always like to hear different opinions I’ve learned to trust my own instincts and follow them.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Sure. Many people helped me along the way to build my company and get through some tough periods that almost every startup company is facing, including my family, my employees, my investors and my friends. But the one who supported me the most and for the longest period is my partner and main investor, who believed in me from the very beginning, provided me with the funding to open my company, and supported me continuously ever since, for over 15 years now. He has been my greatest mentor and was there whenever I needed guidance, a different perspective or tangible help to get through tough periods. Without his support and belief in me and in the company I founded, I would never be able to get to where I am today and I am extremely grateful for his support. Being an entrepreneur can often be a lonely and stressful journey and having the right investor and partner by your side is a great privilege.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I hope we were able to harness the power of technology to provide a fun, active and more social play experience for kids, in an era where most of the gaming experiences kids are exposed to from a very early age, are very ‘passive’ in nature and promote a more isolated and sedentary lifestyle. I’m proud of the fact that millions of kids all over the world are playing with our platform on a monthly basis and highly enjoying it. When the Covid-19 pandemic started, we realized that our technology can also help the senior population in senior care homes, which are now suffering from social isolation among other issues.

Ok fantastic. Let’s now move to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell us about the technological innovations in gaming that you are working on?

The most exciting innovation happening at EyeClick right now is our shift into the senior market with our newest interactive product called Obie, which we launched in 2019. EyeClick has always been a global leader in interactive gaming products for children and unfortunately COVID caused some of our core customers to temporarily close their businesses. We realized that our interactive projection products could be a perfect solution for seniors, and especially right now since this sector of people is experiencing more and more depression and isolation since their families and friends are not allowed to visit.

As soon as we understood the massive need and interest for our product inside senior care facilities, we quickly got to work revamping our game content to make them more appropriate for the senior sector. We focused on three main objectives and we tailored our game library to fit the needs of the senior community. We took a hard look at our pre-existing games and we figured out how to make changes to ensure that our games fit into three main objectives: stimulate cognitive activity, promote social interaction, and encourage physical movement.

We quickly hired a brand new team of experts with vast experience in the senior market. We brought on Professor Elkhonon Goldberg, a clinical neuropsychologist and cognitive neuroscientist and Professor in the Department of Neurology at NYU School of Medicine. Professor Elkhonon Goldberg played a large role in helping update our game content to ensure that our interactive Obie games for seniors empower mobility to keep residents more active, improve cognitive activity creating safe play experiences, and provide meaningful interactions.

We also hired Michal Herz, PhD, who holds a doctorate in aging and psychology and works as an advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO), to really take Obie to the next level. With over twenty years in the field of aging, Dr. Herz is solely focused on ensuring that Obie plays an impact on improving and enhancing the quality of life in care-giving facilities.

How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?

Obie’s interactive games are bringing fresh ideas and enhanced innovation to senior living facilities all over the world. Many senior facilities have told us that they have been interested in incorporating more emerging technology into their facilities for a while but they found it hard to find a product that their residents would easily understand and not be overwhelmed by. Obie presents an easy opportunity for senior living facilities to seamlessly incorporate digital technology and revamp the current way of working, integrating digital in a sector which was excluded from this revolution.

Obie’s interactive quality brings an entirely new dimension to games and entertainment, especially since the device can be pre-set to run on its own. With old school games, a staff member needs to set it up and initiate residents to play and take part. Obie can be pre-programmed, so while the device provides independent visual stimuli, it also encourages residents to move and reacts to the residents slightest touch, readily drawing people in to engage.

The cause and effect that happens with Obie’s games are also very different compared to other interactions. With Obie, residents can play with a ball on the floor, and everywhere it touches, a beautiful field of flowers emerges. This immediately draws the group into the game, and encourages movement and participation in a way that traditional games don’t have the ability to do and in a much more safe and hygienic way.

Obie by EyeClick has seen rapid adoption in senior care facilities around the world. Senior facilities are so excited about implementing this interactive tech and thousands of residents are using it daily. Thanks to Obie for Seniors, the company is going through a tremendous geographical expansion as well, since, on top of Israel and the US, several installations are currently happening across Europe.

You, of course, know that games and toys are not simply entertainment, but they can be used for important purposes. What is the “purpose” or mission behind your company? How do you think you are helping people or society?

Playing is a “universal language” that we learn from a very early age and it follows us throughout our lifetime. Our vision at EyeClick is to harness the power of play and technology to engage people from all ages in a playing activity that improves cognitive health, physical health and social interaction in a way that is both seamless and great fun to play with.

I’m very interested in the interface between games and education. How do you think more people (parents, teachers etc.) or institutions (work, school etc.) can leverage toys or gamification to enhance education?

Our interactive products have been installed inside educational facilities all over the world. We have created a large amount of educational content specifically designed for learning. We have received very positive feedback from educators and parents that their students thrive by playing our learning games because the experience is so much more fun and memorable.

How would you define a “successful” game or toy? Can you share an example of a game or toy that you hold up as an aspiration?

For me a successful game or toy is one that speaks the universal language of play — it’s simple and intuitive to use without complex instructions or with no instructions at all, it gives endless playing possibilities for a wide range of ages and skill levels, it promotes cognitive, physical and social aspects and allows you to constantly improve your skills while providing endless hours of fun. It even allows you to create your own version of games with it. The best example is probably — a simple playing ball..

What are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Create a Successful Game” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Following my previous answer:

  1. Simplicity — people sometimes tend to over complicate things. I am a great believer in simplicity and think that the best games are ones that don’t need much explanation and can be understood intuitively.
  2. The right balance between challenge and reward — If a game is too difficult, people will become frustrated and lose interest. If it’s too simple, it quickly becomes boring. A good game needs to have the right balance to keep you motivated.
  3. Ability to improve your skills over time — a good game will be able to provide more and more challenges as you continue to play with it, allowing you to improve your skills without sacrificing the gaming experience.
  4. Promotes social interaction — a good game is one that enhances social interaction, whether by competition or cooperation.
  5. Bridges between generations — a good game is one that can be played together by adults and kids, bridging between generations.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I believe that we are already trying to do this at EyeClick — bring the power of play to the most amount of people in a wide range of ages and conditions while promoting fun, health and direct social interaction.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” by George Bernard Shaw. It always reminds me to keep things in perspective and try to enjoy what I am doing.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @BEAMbyEyeClick

Instagram: beambyeyeclick

LinkedIn: EyeClick

Facebook: BEAM by EyeClick



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