For my MSc thesis, I have worked on the development of an interactive playground. Inspired by the success of theAnemone project, I decided to further investigate interaction in open-ended systems. This time with specific focus on children as users.
Being overweight is a growing problem amongst children. They spend an increasing amount of time on passive activities like computer gaming and less time on physical activities like outdoor play. Although health care programs promote a healthier youth, children are unlikely to give up much of their computer time in favour of outdoor play. A possible solution to this problem would be a combination of computer games and traditional, physical outdoor play.
Design & Implementation
A range of traditional children’s outdoor games was analyzed for the elements that make up those games (dubbed: ‘dimensions of play’). Then interactions for a virtual interactive playground were designed thatimplemented one or more of these dimensions. This way, an open-ended (sinceno goal had been incorporated into the design), and interesting environment was created.
A prototype of the playground was installed at the lab of the Human Computer Interaction group at the University of Twente.A projector and infra-red camera were used to handle visualizations and player tracking.
User tests with children aged between 6 and 12 have been performed and the results show a mixed image. Although there are signs that the developed playground can indeed fulfil the goal of combining the merits of traditional children’s play and computer gaming, further research is required to solve a number of issues. There are however good reasons to believe that with some adjustments, the developed playground can provide children with an interactive play environment which can keep them happy and healthy.