Tech company helps kids learn new sports skills through video game

MIAMI – We know the mental and physical benefits of regular physical activity, but more than one in four adults and more than 80% of adolescents do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity for optimum health, according to research from the World Health Organization.

A new company is hoping to improve those numbers, in part by getting our kids up and moving in a way that won’t make you want to take the smartphone away.

Inside the library of Arcola Lake Elementary School in Miami, students recently got a rundown on “How to Start a Tech Company” from the creators of Rival Beat.

It was an interactive presentation, featuring a product that hopes to empower generations of kids to discover and grow their passions.

It’s as simple as learning the ABC’s or, in this case, kicking a soccer ball directly in front of you.

“We want to make skill development more accessible,” Rival Beat CEO and co-founder Nadia Haven said. “We want to lower the barriers to you going in and learning a sport. But we also want to make the technology more accessible.”

Rival is the company and Rival Beat is the company’s first product.

Founded by Haven and Dr. Isabel Hutchison, the goal is to get up and move in a productive way by learning new skills and improving them.

Powered by the company’s proprietary AI technology, Rival Beat is a video game that works by tracking a player’s every move to the beat of music, giving points and feedback in real time.

All it takes to play is a smartphone and the idea that anyone can participate.

“If you have to think you’re athletic before you do a sport, that’s a big barrier to get over. So if we can strip all of those out…You’re not thinking, ‘I’m a soccer player.’ You’re thinking, ‘Hey, this is a fun game.’ Then the outcome is that you have soccer skills,” Haven said.

It’s not just about having a good time, though.

Rival wants the game to enable kids who play it to do more than just climb the leaderboard with their friends.

The idea is to allow its users a chance to create their own augmented reality games, as well -- similar to the very popular Roblox.

“The full vision is that kids will be in control of the technology,” Haven said. “So we will be actually putting those tools in their hands instead of us creating the levels. Here’s level one, level two, level three. We’ll say, ‘Here’s the computer vision technology, here are the AR effects, here’s the music -- you customize your own experience.’”

In partnership with Dibia Dream – an organization aiming to spark social change through STEM and recreational education, Rival travels across South Florida to schools like Arcola Lake, providing the chance to learn about the technology and take a hands-on approach now so they can keep doing that in the future.

“It’s cool in many ways because we can learn our lesson with the ball,” third grader Josue Hichez said.

It’s an engaging session that beats the energy of a traditional lecture, making this a lesson and a game not just for natural athletes, but anyone who wants to learn.

“All kids should have access to these opportunities. All kids should have access to understanding, hey, how does computer vision technology work? Because maybe one of them wants to pursue a career in that field and you can’t pursue something if you don’t know what exists,” Haven said.

Rival Beat will be expanding into more versions, building experiences in other sports, such as basketball, dance and martial arts.

They also plan on taking and growing the “How to Build a Tech Company” program across Miami and the U.S.

That includes, eventually, live-streaming a week-long program in the fall for middle school students and high schoolers.

About the Author:

Gio Insignares joined the Local 10 News team in May 2021 as an anchor and reporter. He’ll be co-anchoring the new WSFL Morning Newscast, Monday-Friday from 7-9 a.m., and also contribute to other WPLG newscasts.