Turn your focus into trees
Forest is the greenest way to concentrate.
Forest - 集中力を高める
How easy do you find it to stay focused? In a world of distraction Forest is the perfect anecdote, motivating users to put down their phones and be productive. How? By planting virtual trees!
And in the process of helping people strike a balance between life and technology, the app is doing its part for a greener planet, one real tree at a time.
To find out how the idea for Forest took root and why it continues to grow, we talked to the app’s developers Marcus Pi and Amy Jeng.
Pi and Jeng developed the app in their spare time while attending university. But, in the beginning, their idea needed some pruning.
“We first came up with the idea for making it a cute virtual pet, but we thought this would probably just make users think about playing with it and lose sight of their goal,” Jeng says. “Then we thought about how the nature of planting trees better signify focus.”
Pi says that once they’d refined their idea, the next creative challenge was how to use it. At first they considered a sort of lock-screen app that would restrict phone use, but felt this would put too much pressure on users and could even encourage them to find a way around it. That’s when they turned to gamifying the app and built up a reward system that reinforced good smartphone habits.
Harness the power of concentration
But Pi soon found that gamification alone wasn’t enough incentive for users. “That’s when we thought that perhaps we could encourage users by planting actual trees,” he says.
Because of their limited resources, the students soon turned to non-profit organisations for help. This sparked their co-operation with Trees for the Future, an environmental group focused on reforesting.
Forest’s concept is simple: periods of sustained focus earn coins. Collect 2,500 coins and Forest will fund the planting of a sapling in Africa. Pi says that it takes users about two to three weeks of focus time to earn enough coins for a single tree.
In 2018, Pi and Jeng travelled to see Trees for the Future at work in the field. What they found was a tight-knit operation. “We went to one of their workshops and met with local farmers who had farmland but had no idea how to utilise it. The organisation was teaching them how to use tree fencing and irrigation, as well as helping them to improve their process for growing crops. The farmers were truly happy with the services provided.”
Since 2015, Forest has helped plant more than 400,000 saplings.
Let trees firm up your focus
So, what was the response? According to Pi, users who participated in the tree-planting programme focused an average of 480 per cent more than those who didn’t. The app’s share ratio increased too. “Everyone is willing to share this kind of eco-friendly idea and recommend it to others,” he says.
Among all the app’s users, Pi recalls one in Germany diagnosed with ADHD who left a lasting impression on him. “He was completely unable to calm his mind for school. After using our app, he was really able to concentrate on his studies and in the end got his degree,” Pi says, adding that special education teachers are exploring ways to work with Forest so that classes can plant trees together.
Much like planting trees, nurturing Forest from idea to reality was a slow and gradual process. For Pi, to create an app that can improve focus while planting trees on the opposite side of the world is an unbelievable achievement.
Pi and Jeng believe Forest has pioneered a new model that brings developers, users and non-profit organisations together. It not only increases user incentive and awareness, but also provides non-profits with more exposure and support from around the world. The team’s experiences have influenced their next project. “We’re planning to create a to-do list app themed on water in the hope that we can replicate our experience with Forest and have a positive impact on water resources and facilities,” Pi says.
We’re looking forward to seeing those 400,000+ saplings grow into a forest just as much as Pi and Jeng’s next world-changing app.