The seed of an idea
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, most of the UK population was placed under stay-at-home orders, with millions of the most vulnerable ordered to shield, effectively preventing them from leaving their homes and denying them vital exercise. We found that few exercise apps targeted elderly people, and those that did often had a poor user experience, whilst official advice on exercise was difficult to find and very generic.
We developed the idea of creating an Alexa skill with an easy-to user interface which older people could use to access ability-appropriate activities to keep them healthy and active. Our idea attracted the interest of Sport England, who were running an open call for innovation projects to support people in keeping active throughout the pandemic.
Finding a fantastic content partner
A key challenge for us was making sure we got the content right. During our initial engagements with Sport England we were introduced to Demos, an award-winning think tank and previous recipient of Sport England funding who had developed 10 Today; short, ten minute programmes of activities which were broadcast on radio and YouTube. They had a fantastic bank of content developed in partnership with Terry, a personal trainer specialising in older people.
We developed a partnership with Demos to bring their fantastic content to Alexa. This was a fantastic partnership, as it allowed us to meet multiple stretch goals, including the use of video within the skills and allowing users to set up reminders. It also meant we could deliver high-quality, thoroughly researched and age-appropriate content to users.
Tailored, full-body routines
Each of the 37 activities within the 10 Today content was categorised by muscle group. When the user begins a session, the skill randomly selects a set of 9 activities, with provisions to ensure a mix of muscle groups are worked out each session, and repetitions of the same activity are kept to a minimum. To help users tailor the experience to their own ability, they can rate each exercise the first time they hear it, with the skill remembering their preferences, and withholding activities they find too challenging. This allows users to build up routines that are personalised to their individual ability.
Tailored, Multimedia and multi-device-body routines
The skill supports both audio-only and video-enabled devices such as Echo Show and Fire TV. Different content is delivered to the user depending on the device detected, with video content being less descriptive than audio content, relying more on personal trainer and programme creator Terry to show users how to conduct each workout. We also introduced reminders, with the user able to set up a reminder to move and stretch for just ten minutes each day, encouraging users to effect sustained change.
The 10 Today skill for Alexa was launched in September 2021 for both audio and screen-based Alexa devices and was selected by Amazon for inclusion in their September highlights.
Launched to coincide with Demos’ release of Season 2 of 10 Today, with a raft of new activities for older people, we are now planning for future expansions to the skill to continue to support older people in staying active.