Digital playground

Normally I would design an object or product to be used in a specific, predetermined, way. But not in this project. I drew inspiration from the open-ended play principle. In short, this means to design an object that stimulates playfull interactions with users in such a way that the user can find their own game around the object. This is interesting because unexpected ways of interaction can arise and no rules or gameplay needs to be explained before interaction. Also social interaction will be stimulated as the way of using the object needs to be negotiated.

Duration: 3 weeks

3 stages of open-ended play

This project started by reading papers into open-ended play and the relation with stimulating social interaction. How do you combine the best aspects of digital play and fysical play whilst being outside? Important steps are represented in the model above, which is made by Linda de Valk, Tilde Bekker and Berry Eggen in their paper.

Digital sketches

I got inspiration from the prototypes made in different papers (1, 2, 3, 4) to research the effects of open-ended play objects. I decided to use LED coloured poles or plates to provide playfull interaction possibilities. With these kind of sketches I was able to make desicions about size, scale and material. But to really test things, you have to make them tangible.

Tests with plexiglass and led's

I made a series of prototypes to test different aspects of the design. What height of the pole is best suited? What width? How to implement the LED's? What is strong enough? What kind of sensor to use? How to respond to the sensor input? The bottom right picture shows the best option to go further into. This dimensions were suited for standing on, walking between and colouring.

Mounting tests

These pictures show different experiments on how to mount the poles onto a base plate. This was a trail and error process. All of the options needed to be stress tested. By looking closely on where and why a part broke I managed to make it as strong as possible. The bottom right picture shows the plexiglass breaking instead of the mount, this meant I could not make it stronger with this material.

Mounting tests

At the same time, I continously did experiments with the light feedback and sensor technology. After tyring different options and building some pressure sensors myself, I borrowed custom hardware that included an Arduino, LED ring and gyroscope. With this gyroscope I could detect vibration, when rightly calibrated this gave the possibility to detect someone walking on the base plate.

Mounting tests

The final setup at a local small festival. The behaviour of the LED's is rather simple. When no activity is measured, they loop through the HUE color wheel. When someone moves around the wooden base, a short white flash occurs. This turned out to be the best and simplest behaviour to make people develop their own games.

Mounting tests

Kids playing while parents listening to the music.