Sustainable Play Equipment

No.1 Xialin Bay, Qingtian

Zhejiang, China

+86 176 8231 2146

WhatsApp: 24/7 Customer Support

9:00 - 17:30 GMT

Online store always open

Swings, slides and iPads: the gaming companies targeting kids' outdoor play – The Guardian

Startups are applying gaming to the great outdoors as a survey reveals three-quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates
Three-quarters of UK children now spend less time outside than prison inmates, according to a new survey, with the lure of digital technology partly to blame. But, in a world where gaming and screen time are an everyday reality, could the right technology actually get more kids to play outdoors?
Hybrid Play is a Spanish start-up which uses augmented reality (AR) – patching computer imagery on to real life – to transform playgrounds into video games. A wireless sensor resembling an over-sized clothes peg clips onto any piece of playground equipment. It then registers the movement of the children as they play and converts it into video games to play through a smartphone.
Co-founder Clara Boj says she is aware that many people think playgrounds should be technology free: “But our hybrid games are designed to put physical playing at the centre of the experience, not technology.”
The AR universe is already vast. The latest Ikea Catalogue app allows you to superimpose furniture on to your front room before you buy. The viral hit MSQRD app superimposes celebrity faces on to your own, while the disturbing CamGun superimposes weapons on to your camera, allowing you to playfully gun down your friends and family.
So far, most big gaming companies have kept AR as close to the living room – and their consoles – as possible.
But some, along with Hybrid Play, are stepping out into the great outdoors. Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of gaming company BioWare (makers of the Jade Empire, Mass Effect and Dragon Age series), is now head of the AR start-up Biba. Its premise is that “all the playgrounds on Earth are actually the wreckage of robot spacecraft”. As kids enter a playground they meet a robot companion on their smartphone. Zeschuck has admitted that “after a career of putting people on their butts for hundreds of hours playing games, I’m trying to pay back the world by making games that make kids go outside.”
There is interest from play equipment manufacturers too. TP Toys, for example, recently added AR to its portfolio. The Lil’ Monkey climbing frame comes with an app that children use to play with a monkey character that climbs on the frame and suggests different games and levels to complete.
A company spokesman says that the app “was designed to keep up with children’s changing playing habits and an understanding that children are interacting with smartphones and tablets more at a younger age … [It] offers us the opportunity to bring children’s imagination to life and offer something extra to their traditional play.”
Mark Sears, chief wild officer at The Wild Network – a cross-sector initiative backed by the National Trust, RSPB and Arla foods among others – has mixed views: “When used in the right way [AR technology] can definitely encourage more children to go outdoors and explore nature … we have a free Wild Time app that offers easy time-based ideas and reminders for outdoor play, from making a den to flying a kite.”
However, Sears says technology should enhance the child’s outdoor play, not be the reason for it. “It’s very easy for manufacturers to see kids as needing fixing by creating more products and solutions. The truth is that kids make their own play when they are left to it. They need less stimulation in many cases. You don’t see kids climbing trees shouting for someone to pass them a device.”
At the USC School of Cinematic Arts, research assistant professor of interactive media and games, Marientina Gotsis has studied the effect of apps and gaming on child development. “I am afraid of a future where AR gaming becomes another virtual babysitter that gives coins to children for touching the next flower,” she says. “Outdoor play is intrinsically pleasurable when we play with people we love and enjoy.”
Education campaigner Sir Ken Robinson is less worried. “[Technology] isn’t necessarily a solitary experience … It offers huge opportunities to inform and inspire children’s sense of adventure and appetite for outdoor play.”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top