The "Intelligent Play System" takes gaming technology into the playground

A quarter of all UK children are now estimated to be clinically obese, making this the defining health issue of our time. But with initiatives for getting the ‘Playstation generation’ off the couch and onto the playing fields yielding mixed results, while the Nintendo Wii is heralded as an unexpected ‘fat burner,’ a new playground product has been launched to put the fun back into fitness for children weaned on TV and videogames.

The system – the next generation of playground equipment is designed to improve fitness, co-ordination and agility by taking Wii-style physical gameplay to a new level. It works by using the videogame method of issuing the player with a sequence of instructions or tasks which must then be completed by physical activities. These tasks, issued via an embedded LED screen, involve single or multiple players running, jumping and twisting to interact with special ‘activity switches’ situated on the system. The result is a whole body, high energy and, most importantly, fun work-out for all involved.

The system is based on research commissioned by playground products specialist, Playdale, from Loughborough University spin-out company, Progressive Sports Technologies (PST). The research highlighted the role that ‘stealth fitness’ (physical activity which is enjoyable enough not to feel like a chore) plays in keeping children to a healthy weight. It also advocated using videogameplay strategies as a solution, as the immediate, frequent feedback and goal-setting that characterises electronic gaming was found to increase adherence to exercise.