Mattel+IDI workshop about new play experiences

Via Putting People First, Play Experiences for the Next Generation is a workshop that has been led by Mattel and the Interaction Design Institute at Ivrea.

"Play is a critical and healthy part of growing up and remaining balanced during adulthood. But there are many changes in play today that provoke thinking about the next generation of play in a different way. Changes like the prevalence of technology based play through computers, game consoles and cell phones. Changes like the time compression most kids and families are dealing with in the developed world and the way kids seem to be growing up faster. Changes like the degree that parents and kids being bombarded with adverts and rich visual media. With these and other issues the nature of the next generation of play and of how to attract the attention of adults and children is already changing fast."

The website is very well-documented with things like case studies (check "From user research to experience design A case study: robot toys for 4-5 years old | LEGO !).

Most of the projects can be found here. My favorite one is certainly robosquad by David Mellis and James Tichenor (yes it's close to a blogject but it does not blog, the good thing is that it interacts with other robots):

Robo-Squad SND is a series of modular robots which can be remote-controlled or operated autonomously. The basic package contains a full unit, consisting of three parts: the vehicle or locomotive element, the character, and accessories. (...) Imagine a play experience where the toys in a child's room are alive: moving, walking, talking. At one moment the child is one of the actors in the toys' stories and the next the child is above the toys, changing their relationships and actions. Robo-Squad SND makes this happen.

(...) Children transform their play spaces in their imaginations. To do this, Robo-Squad SND units needed to react to three elements: their environment, each other, and the child.

The wild watches by Aram Armstrong, Vinay Vankatraman and Pei Yu is also interesting in the sense that it is a wearable game and role play facilitator in the form of a watch. Both a platform in the software and hardware sense, on which many games and roles can be developed and played, what I found relevant is also the scenario they envisioned:

The animal role expresses itself by giving the child appropriate feedback, which come in the form of visual, auditory or tactile cues. These can be triggered by the proximity of predator or prey, or by making appropriate animal-like gestures. The physical and on-screen design of the watch gives the impression of an extension of the animal, so your arm becomes the elephant's trunk, the tiger's paw, or the snake's head and thereby moves the focus of the child's activity from the watch unto the entire body. Wild Watches allows children to play games, both alone and with friends. The games we explored and tested with children were new games and adaptations of old games but given new contexts and tech-enhanced twists; hand games, tag games, hide and seek games with names like Ant Race (cooperative play), Frog Hop (hot potato), Dragon Battle (strategy hand game), Virus (grouping and re-grouping tag), Bat Chase (sonic evasion), Snake, Mongoose, Bulldog (triangle tag), and Dolphin Treasure (hot and cold).

Why do I blog this? when I visited IDI last year I've heard about this workshop and was looking forward to see what could have emerged from it (in terms of interactive toy forecasts).