Ecological approach to kids palyground

An Ecological Approach to Children’s Playground Props by Susanne Seitinger (Smart Cities Group / MIT Media Lab ), in Proc. of IDC'06 (Tampere, Finland, June 2006). This paper describes an interesting approach about the designing of a new kind of kids' playground. The authors try to bring forward a "new category of space explorer emerges that interacts with children as they engage their outdoor play environment". What I liked in this project was this notion of "space explorers":

In trying to develop a prop from the suggested approach, a new category emerged called “space explorers” for preschool children, which derives from the pull-along toys many of us remember from our own childhood. What are space explorers? They are animated objects that reveal important information about outdoor play environments by adding another layer of interactions to the triangle of children ↔ objects ↔ play setting.

In literal outer-space exploration, the spherical robot plays an important role. There are several examples of inflated or solid spherical robots which have been developed for understanding distant planets. Some attempts have been made to adapt these objects for children, but they are starting from a robotics framework [18]. Adapting rolling objects for children’s play is nothing new – the ball is still one of the most common play objects. An initial prototype emerged starting from this universal spherical form and adding the idea of an exploration device. The basic scenario for such a roller would be: Children encounter the roller – or another space explorer – in an outdoor play setting where it is activated by their presence. The types of ensuing behaviors include expected and unexpected outcomes, for example: the ball may initially roll down a hill as expected only to turn around and return towards the child.

And an example of such space explorer is the following "wheel space explorer placed in the snow to illustrate the powerful relationship between object and ground. Children are connected to the space directly through their presence in it and the intangible links to the object".

Why do I blog this? I see more and more occurences of new types of playgrounds, based on user-centered design, with some ubiquitous computing technologies; this seems to be an interesting topic in urban computing, with a different scale (compared to locative media stuff).