Fredericton-based Sapien has launched its Lightdogs app on Apple’s App Store, and people in several countries have downloaded the app in the hope it will ease them off their cell phone addictions.

Sapien’s mission is to encourage people to spend less time on their phones – and odd as it may sound, it’s invented a mobile app to accomplish the task.

Its new app lets people build up points the longer they stay off their phones, and trade those points for animated dogs. As of Monday, 200 people had downloaded the app with clusters of users appearing in such places as Belgium and Hong Kong.

“We launched on the sixth,” said Founder and CEO Cameron Crain in an interview Monday. “We haven’t spent any money on marketing. … It’s cool to see complete strangers use it and to see clusters popping up in certain areas, as that proves it’s spreading by word of mouth.”

Crain is trying to address the problem of people being glued to their phones all day long. He describes his creation as “a collectable game powered by a focus timer.” Users set the timer and leave the phone alone, with the Lightdogs app still on.  As long as the app is on, they build up points. They’re given a bit of leeway on checking things on other apps, but generally if they switch to other apps before the allotted time, they lose all their points. They can even run it while they sleep, though only for one-quarter as many points as during daytime.

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They can trade their points for animated dogs, and the goal is to develop a group of these crafted figures. You can even breed them once you have enough of them.

“We worked really hard to make the game engaging,” said Crain. “The thing that motivates you to be engaged is to build up the collection of the dogs.”

Sapien’s main competitor is an app called Forest, in which users grow digital trees the longer they stay off their phones. Crain aimed to make his puppies more engaging for the user than his competitor’s trees.

Crain, who works as a user interface designer, developed the business with a $25,000 investment from friends and family, and East Valley Ventures Chair Gerry Pond. He also received support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. He hired six contract developers to help produce the app on Apple’s iOS operating system.

He plans to make money from the initiative through a freemium model. Users can download and use the app free, and there are opportunities to pay for additional benefits. Some of these have yet to be added. For example, you could buy point boosters, in which you get three or four times the points per hour than at normal times.

For now, Crain is pleased the app has not only been downloaded in its first five days but has also been used by people around the world.

“It’s been really heartening to see,” said Crain. “Those 200 users so far have logged just under 30 days of unplugged time. And that doesn’t include night sessions.”