The Ludo: A Soccer Ball That Racks Up Cash For The Developing World As You Play

Now a quick game of footie can mean more than just a little exercise–it can mean you’re also building a school.

When the Soccket, a soccer ball that produces and stores energy during game play, was announced in 2009, it was a sensation among do-gooder types. The basic idea: take something that people do all the time in many African countries (playing soccer) and make it useful–in this case, by letting people power up a small LED light with gameplay, reducing the need for fume-generating kerosene lamps. Now Uncharted Play, the company behind the Soccket, is bringing a feel-good soccer ball to the developed world, but with a twist.


The Ludo (the name comes from the Latin words for “to play” and “to give”) is a soccer ball powered by a chip that tracks play time, which is wirelessly uploaded to Uncharted Play’s online gaming platform, the Play Fund. Jessica Matthews, the co-founder and CEO of Uncharted Play, describes the Play Fund as “a socially oriented Kickstarter that’s gamified.”

The ball uses the same ultra-durable shell from the Soccket–a dense, Croc-like material–and it can’t be deflated. This isn’t a wimpy piece of technology.

Here’s how it works: You kick around the soccer ball for awhile, log onto the Play Fund, and select a project that you think deserves your “play points.” Sample projects may include books for a school, desks, food, or even vaccines. “Before you know it, you donated X amount of hours and you literally built a school,” says Matthews, who was a college student when the Soccket was released.

The expenses are covered both by the expected Ludo purchase price ($59.99) and cash from corporate sponsors. Uncharted Play has a handful of implementation partners in the developing world signed up, but Matthews can’t reveal details quite yet.

Uncharted Play doesn’t have any immediate plans to release the Soccket in the developed world–there’s just too much of a need to focus on it in places that lack reliable electricity–so we get the Ludo instead. Instead, says Matthews, “this is about re-engaging the people who were so amazing when we first launched Soccket and saying ‘Hey, thank you for this, we’ve now taken the time to design something for you.'”

The Ludo will be released November 7th, with a beta release of the Play Fund launching the same day.


About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.