The Future of Playgrounds

The latest jungle gym talks to you, and connects to the web

i.play

Playdale

And you thought Bop-it was fun? British kids in parks around the country are playing a mega-scaled version of the addicting game that burns calories while they play.

The i.play system, developed in the UK by Loughborough University and Playdale, looks a bit like a jungle gym with a series of twelve nodes attached to a metal structure that is seven feet high and twenty feet in diameter. In "i.play" mode, the computer at the top of the system yells out instructions of which node needs to pushed, pulled, or spun. If kids don't run, jump, and lunge fast enough, or hit the wrong node, they lose a life. Lose three lives and the game is over. Finish five levels and a score is displayed on the LED screen based on how quickly you finished. "I.match" mode allows up to six players to create their own pattern of nodes that each person must complete correctly from memory. A new node is added each round until a winner is found. Switch the controller to "base mode" and the top nodes are off-limits, allowing players in wheelchairs to join in. The i.play website allows users at any installation to upload their scores and compare with others around the country. Call it online gaming of a healthier variety.

The system costs $45,000 installed, with the weak dollar not helping. All the electronics are powered by a solar panel that comes with the installation. Software updates with new modes and different games are included with any installation. There are currently 30 installed in parks and schools across England. The only thing stopping them from crossing the Atlantic is cold hard cash.

Come on, people! It's for the kids.

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