Nex co-founder and CEO David Lee

A Hongkonger Sets Ambition to Bring Motion Gaming Back into Households

Ex-Apple engineer David Lee shares his story on the Nex Playground console.

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7:07 PM HKT, Fri May 31, 2024 1 mins read

The gaming console industry is dominated by Sony’s PlayStation, Nintendo, and Microsoft’s Xbox, but a startup thinks it can grab a piece of this lucrative pie. The Nex Playground is a palm-sized cube with a built-in camera for motion tracking — currently up to four players simultaneously. It’s basically picking up where the Xbox Kinect left off years ago, but with a simpler setup thanks to the advancement of AI.

Nex Playground’s party games include silly games like whack-a-mole and Fruit Ninja, as well as more sporty ones based on football, basketball, tennis, hula hooping, ice hockey, and dancing. Some of these titles even let you play as beloved characters from Peppa Pig, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Sesame Street and more. Indeed, the Nex booth at BEYOND Expo 2024 proved to be a popular attraction for young students.

Nex Playground motion gaming console

Nex co-founder and CEO David Lee never thought he would end up developing a gaming console. Before his current venture, Lee had another startup which got acquired by Apple in 2009. Lee, along with a few colleagues, eventually left Apple to form Nex.

Lee’s new company achieved its first success with HomeCourt, a basketball training app powered by computer vision and AI. It came out at just the right time.

“In the pandemic, millions of people downloaded it and [were] basically not using it to track their basketball shots, but to play the interactive training games in it,” Lee explained.

HomeCourt has since been endorsed by the NBA, and its star-studded investor lineup now include Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash, Will Smith, Mark Cuban, and more.

Nex Playground gaming console

With the rising popularity of HomeCourt, the Nex team realized that they could apply a similar idea to a standalone platform. Eventually, they gathered enough know-how to pivot to creating a gaming console, with the bonus being securing powerful IPs from the likes of Hasbro and Sesame Workshop. The result was the 200 USD Nex Playground.

“It’s not really a device designed for core gamers. We designed this device really for families, especially the younger kids who don’t know how to use controllers yet,” Lee added. “So we have kids as young as 3, we also have grandparents as old as 90 years old.“

Nex Playground gaming console

The Nex team is currently split between San Jose and Hong Kong, with the latter being the hometown of all three co-founders. Lee explained that setting up these two bases allows his company to tap into the talent pool on both sides of the world, not to mention easier access to key hardware partners.

“When we go into consumer electronics, basically building actual hardware, it would be great to have an office that is so close to our factory in Shenzhen,” Lee added. “And also we have an office in the Bay Area that’s only ten minutes away from our silicon partner, who designed the chip inside Nex Playground.”

It’s still early days for the Nex Playground, but from an entrepreneurship point of view, it’s certainly an inspiring example of taking up new challenges, while getting the best out of both sides of the world.

All images by Richard Lai.

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