Tell us about Stairforce – what is it?
Stairforce is an iPhone app designed to encourage incidental exercise by rewarding users for taking the stairs instead of an elevator. The app visualises the vertical distance climbed on the stairs as a slow and steady ascent into space. The idea is to boost incidental exercise by gamifying climbing as human-powered space travel. Stairforce offers more than 60 different milestones, such as climbing the equivalent of the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building, and users of the app can also compete against their Facebook friends.
How did the idea come about?
I work at Palmu, one of the biggest design agencies in Finland. While climbing the stairs to our sixth-floor office I started visualising myself climbing a stairway into space. This struck me as a cool way to encourage people to stop taking elevators. At the same time, I was reading a number of different books about forming habits and how redesigning habits may help encourage people towards healthier choices. Prompted by this, I shared my idea with the owners of Palmu who liked it so much they helped to fund its development, along with AVEK’s – The Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture Finland – DigiDemo programme.
What’s your professional background?
I graduated from the University of Art and Design Helsinki with a Master of Arts and have since worked in advertising (branding, storytelling, marketing) and service design (concept and user-centred product design). Working on the Stairforce project has been a great way of combining these skills. But as Stairforce is an app, and I’m not a programmer, I’ve joined forces with a couple of programmers, including our chief technology officer Tapio Heiskanen, to bring the concept to life.
What is the attitude to physical activity like in your native Finland?
People don’t do enough, and as a result, half of the adults are overweight, and one in five adults is obese. The weight of Finnish men has been increasing since the 1970s, and women since the 1980s, so it’s a real cause for concern.
What is your ultimate goal with Stairforce?
Everybody agrees that exercise offers many health benefits; however, the challenge is finding a way to get stressed-out, desk-bound employees to exercise more often. Our goal with Stairforce is to add physical activity into our users’ daily lives without too much inconvenience. We want to make the world a better place, one step at a time. We launched the first version of the app last summer, so we’re still at the beginning. We’re trying to find our tribe and understand more about what our users want from Stairforce.
We’re looking for funding and firms we can partner with to execute our vision, such as a player in the healthcare sector or an app/game company.