Exploring the playground of the future with a digitally enhanced set of swings

Exploring the playground of the future with a digitally enhanced set of swings
Short article by Dr Seth Giddings, Associate Professor of Digital Culture & Design at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton

Lightbug is a magical swing that brings light, colour and sound to playgrounds. It invites children to play, through digital interactivity, in both imaginative and physical ways. Swinging triggers light and sound reactions, and the whole swing is programmed to respond to play, and to suggest different kinds of play activity and experience. This ambition project brings together Tine Bech’s interactive and design experience, Seth Giddings’ research into digital and postdigital play, and Danish play-technological expertise.

Swings are symbolic of freedom, excitement, and thrills – children (and adults) are drawn to them. The swing is an invitation to play. Lightbug takes this invitation and offers a new perspective on the playground, another dimension to imaginative and physical play. It updates the ancient machinery of the swing with contemporary technology to create new activities that are interesting, interactive and playful. It anticipates, and takes big steps towards, the magical digital and physical playground of the future.

Central to the process was a team of 7-12 year olds, the Young Coaches. They were partners in the design process from the very start, and worked alongside the teams as demanding playtesters and consultants, always coming up with new ideas. Their enthusiasm for the idea of interactive and colourful playground equipment reassured them that the project was viable…

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