Augmented playground

The playground was full of parents staring into Facebook while their kids had a lonely time on the slide. We were at the Tesla of playgrounds, Magical Bridge in Palo Alto, yet there was begging for Pokemon Go.

Eventually I caved. I wouldn’t have given in for straight screen time, like a movie or game, but AR is different.

My younger guy, who doesn’t totally get PKG, got bored and climbed a tree. My older guy fiddled with the phone, every once in a while looking up to square with the world. At one point he took off like a shot to run around a long fence between him and a virtual pokemon, and then withdrew into the virtual layer again.

Yes, augmented reality screen time is more active, engaged and physical than watching a video or playing a game. But I’m on the fence about whether it increases activity and engagement or detracts from it. AR screen time is less passive than ordinary screen time, less about the world in the phone. But that’s not much of an improvement if the kids were going to be out in the world engaging at full title. The question isn’t whether AR is better than than full-on screen time. It’s whether AR is better than full-on play time.

From a parent’s point of view, augmented reality needs to increase physical activity, or keep it steady but add an intellectual component.


faa27bde-biba-photo-sm-2

I mentioned Biba in my notes on the Shape conference. It is an AR layer tightly integrated with a playground, for the purpose of improving on real world experiences. It’s funded by a company that makes play structures.

Biba games turn the screen-time kids love into the outdoor, physical and imaginative play that parents know they need.

Biba uses the smartphones found in every parents’ pocket or purse to unlock new and exciting games every time a family visits the playground. And it’s not just fun for the kids!

Every gameplay session generates a series of family friendly fitness metrics that let parents track their kids’ progress.

In this arrangement the real world comes first. AR is an enhancement.