Seattle Startup Play Impossible Brings Physical Activity to Digital Gaming

A new Gameball designed by the man behind the FitBit that uses Amazon's Alexa technology is reintroducing physical activity to recreation.

SUPERBALL: Cutaway image shows the sensory "brain" of the Gameball, which allows users to combine digital gaming with physical activity via a Bluetooth-enabled app.

This article appears in print in the January 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

As creative as digital games are, they usually involve sitting and staring at a screen. Seattle startup Play Impossible is building a game that encourages people to get up and play.

“Everything was designed to keep you still,” CEO Brian Monnin, who cofounded the Seattle company in 2015, says of the typical digital game. “Being physical was the missing ingredient.”

A “connected” ball is what Play Impossible has introduced as that missing ingredient. It was brought to life by cofounder Gadi Amit, who designed the first three generations of the FitBit. 

The Gameball — an indoor/outdoor 5-inch inflatable about the size of a volleyball — is connected to a bright, engaging, lightning-quick app that sets you up to play one of nine games. Some of the games are pretty simple, including one that essentially measures how high you can throw the ball in a given amount of time. It also collects hyperspecific data on how you interact with the ball — data that users can track and export. 

In 2017, Play Impossible was one of nine companies selected for the inaugural Alexa Accelerator presented by TechStars and received an investment from Amazon’s $100 million Alexa Fund. 

In 2018, its games will also be operable from a Fire TV, and the Alexa AI and specific voice commands will continue to be a key component of new games as they’re developed. The Gameball is built around a patented custom physics engine and can be powered up in 20 seconds by being placed next to a stand-alone rapid charger.  

Launched in October, the Gameball sells for $99 at more than 100 Target stores around the country, at and on the Amazon Launchpad, a showcase of innovative new products.

Renton-based Baden Sports manages production and fulfillment. 

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