Everyone knows that kids these days spend too much time with their phones and video games, and that not spending time in the great outdoors is bad for their health. Enter A-Champs, a small tech startup that offers a potential solution to screen-addicted kids.

What is it?

Their ROXs is a “screenless interactive entertainment system” designed to reward kids for athletic play the same way that video games reward screen time. A “screenless console,” which looks like a big plastic button, facilitates a variety of games involving scoring by tapping or moving the main console box to trigger an accelerometer.

The ROXs device is controlled via Bluetooth by a smartphone with the A-Champs app, which offers game rules and settings and keeps score for the players. A-Champs’ goal is to give kids the same kind of rewards that gaming does by actually running, jumping and exploring instead of controlling a character with a joystick.

The latest versions of the device are the ROXs (“Rockses” — try to avoid Gollum impressions as you say it) 2 and 2s. I tested the 2s. It includes a scanner that detects “action pebbles” called “Pebbs.” These are large plastic chips that look like giant guitar picks, with assorted animal faces. Think of them as oversized game pieces.

What’s it like?

With a single ROXs device and the eight included Pebbs, I found four game modes available on the A-Champs app. There was a “Parkour” game, which involves creating an obstacle course, hiding the Pebbs, and then searching the course for one that matches the animal sound the ROXs makes. The others are variations on a race to find the correct Pebb and touch it to the ROXs, which is probably tons of fun when the system can quickly scan and process the action. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my experience, as I found that triggering the device’s accelerometer during a game made it unresponsive to the Pebbs. A-Champs founder Kilian Saekel said this problem has since been fixed.

Who’s it for?

Playing outside is good for everybody, and a family gaming session with the ROXs is certainly possible, though the “animal” noises used by the 2s in many of the games involving Pebbs are likely to grate on adult ears. There’s also cost to consider. The number of preset games available scales up with the number of ROXs consoles. An iPhone can connect as many as seven, and Android devices can connect three to 12, according to A-Champs’ website. At $79 for the 2s, that’s more expensive than a game of kick the can. The ROXs 2 comes in a pack of three of the devices for $129. The best audience for the product is probably a group of families that have frequent play dates or want to start some kind of weekly fitness night together.

Ultimately, the ROXs adds lights, noises and battery life concerns to games your kids would play anyway if they’d just go outside in the first place. Therein lies the rub.


Bruno Povejsil is a freelance writer and social media strategist.