« Silver Screen Sweetness | Main | Playful Technologies for Urban Economic Development »

Unstructured Free Play Interfaces: David Rockwell's Imagination Playground

The New Hotness if ever I saw it. Check out the Imagination Playground’s official site. It covers several interesting concepts of enabling play with technology (not necessarily “high tech”, but the playground project is all about assembling an environment of play interfaces).

From a Fast Company article David Rockwell’s Imagination Playground:

That led Rockwell to set out, pro bono, to develop a playground that promotes free play rather than the jungle gyms and swing sets that emphasize motor skills. The designer focused on basic elements such as building blocks, sand, water, and found objects, and updated the whole concept for the 21st century. Rather than a flat field with climbing structures, an Imagination Playground provides a multilevel play space. “It’s the same thing you would have in the country with a hill or a series of rocks,” he says. “It’s space to explore.”

Of particular interest to me with regard to the technology of playful interfaces is creating human computer interactions (on-screen or in-atoms) that encourage and enable unstructured free play. So I kinda freaked out when I read about this playground design. Granted, it’s not computer-enabled, but COME ON. It’s a genius design and has to be a totally fun user experience.

Every adult I’ve showed this to echoes the article’s author: I wish I could play on this.

Rockwell’s design incorporates several really cool elements. One is a sound garden of pipes, tubes, and other sound shaping components that can be combined creatively. Another is a shallow pool that allows kids to make dams and have water flow fun. One of my favorite memories as a kid was doing this very thing in a giant mud puddle on the playground. I feel quite certain that those muddy dams engaged me in ways few other structured play experiences did.

Some play researchers contend that unstructured free play is intimately linked to developing cognitive flexibility. While this idea is always related to childhood brain development, I’m interested to see what can be done with adults along these lines. For example, perhaps workplace white boards could enable new ways of engaging thought processes through unstructured free play. The challenge is in creating a technology that presents a multitude of, perhaps even nearly infinite, playful experiences despite the inherent limitations of the technology (i.e. any interface is constrained by its form factor or the abilities of the technology due to cost or what have you).

(via Friends of Grand Rapids Parks twitter feed)

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend