Children playing in a lab? That’s allowed in the ProFit Fieldlab, which was set up by the City of Delft and TU Delft two years ago with a European Interreg grant to test prototypes for outdoor play equipment.
As an assistant professor of ‘design for children’, Dr Mathieu Gielen regularly invites classes of schoolchildren to come and play in playground De Bomenwijk, next to De Bieslandhof care home. This encourages children, and hopefully also elderly residents, to be more active.
Just before the summer, Gielen tested three interactive toy prototypes designed by students. Children could use building blocks that started to vibrate if there was a loud noise, and calmed down again when they were touched. They could also use a glove that measured their heart rhythm to scare each other and ‘steal lives’. The third game was a ‘forest of trees’, where the kids could attack each other using LED lights, as long as they moved gracefully.
Gielen measured the amount that children were moving using cameras and sensors. ‘At the beginning, our ambition was to get elderly people and children to play together, but they did not find that such a logical idea. Now we want to offer children and elderly people activating activities the same location.’ For the elderly people in the nursing home, exercise equipment and movable chairs are available. ‘The idea is for elderly people and parents to be tempted to get involved in the game and join in.’
The first prototype in the field lab was Memo (memory movement), consisting of seven posts with touch displays. ‘The children run around and play with these – for example: half of the poles are switched on and they have to turn them off by touching them. The first version did not work well. The children did not understand how to choose the games. We solved that problem by using a menu that combined visual and spoken explanations.’