An Ekibo is a pet AI that grows when you ride trains around Japan. Every time you ride a train or visit a location, your Ekibo learns and grows from the experience. Ekibo was selected by the App Store as the 2017 Best App, Ekibo CEO and developer, Matthew Fargo shares his story with JAPAN Forward.
I’m always the last person to pick on a trend—I literally JUST discovered Crocs—and so it was with emblematic tardiness that I jumped on the startup bandwagon last year and created my own company. With the help of some brilliant friends, I built an application called Ekibo where you grow a character based on the things you actually do and see. The trains you ride to work and school, the things you eat and shows you see all serve to cultivate your Ekibo. Your Ekibo, in turn, heads out into the Japanese countryside in search of local cultural experiences, souvenir shop chatchkes, and spiritual fulfillment. If you’re not into any of that, Ekibo will take selfies in places you’ll probably never have time to visit. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but we were honored to receive Apple’s App of the Year award for 2017.
Lacan tells us that any creative venture is really just a desperate attempt to compensate for something lacking in the creator’s life, and Ekibo is no exception. I moved back to Japan four years ago, imagining a new lifestyle for myself, where I’d hop local trains to places I’d never heard of, letting circumstance guide my feet into serendipitous experiences and forging genuine connections with locals. But of course life is not an NHK show, and in reality I often spend half a year without leaving the city, and whole months without leaving Shibuya Ward.
People like to wax inspirational about how “life is journey,” but we all know the lowdown: life is really a commute, back and forth between the same old things. But thanks to Ekibo, the curry that I ate for lunch today, the gym that I sometimes drag my ass to, and the office that I see way too much of are all reflected in my character’s growth. My Ekibo is super stoic from the long office hours, has an ample beard from my charismatic barhopping, and is currently way out in Kyūshū, where I’ve never actually been. He’s discovered this crazy bit of infrastructure called the Tsūjunkyō, which is like half bridge and half fountain, made entirely out of stone. Meanwhile, back here in the office, I’m working on adding foreign train systems to the app, so that your Ekibo can ride the Paris and Shanghai Metros. Even if it seems like I’m bouncing back and forth between the same two stations on the Chiyoda Line, I’m actually growing in all sorts of interesting ways—and so is Ekibo.
Ekibo Website: eki.bo
App Download (iOS only): EKIBO