People are becoming less active. The reasons are complex but among them are declining rates of work-related and transportation activity, and an increase in sedentary behavior. Forty-five years ago, 40 percent of U.S. schoolchildren rode their bikes to school. In 2001 only 13 percent did so and today, only one in three children are active at all each day. At the same time, screen time (time spent in front of TV, computer, and phone screens) has increased to an astonishing seven and a half hours a day! “Тhe kids are playing” has long changed its meaning.
Aware of this reality, for more than six years, Clara Boj and Diego Diaz have been developing a solution that enables kids to enjoy simultaneously the physical and virtual worlds of play. Their invention, HYBRIDPLAY, turns playground objects into game controllers. It consists of clips with sensors that capture movements, send the data to a mobile app, and transform it into actions in a digital game, such as walking jumping, running, and turning. In practice, the system provides many additional benefits beyond promoting physical activity.
In order to start playing, kids need to decide which objects they want to designate as controllers for their game and attach the clips to them. This immediately introduces basic engineering concepts making children aware of the relationship between software and hardware. Playing is collaborative, and in order to advance in the game, kids need to give instructions to their friends – swing to make the character in the game jump, or go on the seesaw to make him run faster. This type of activity teaches kids how to communicate effectively and work together as a team to achieve a common goal. One of the best features of the platform is that it gives kids and educators an opportunity to design their own game, consequently, helping children to develop their creativity and design skills, and also allowing educators to create games addressing specific educational needs.
Having tested HYBRIDPLAY with thousands of kids in Brazil, Austria, Turkey, Greece, and Spain, Boj and Diaz are currently seeking funding on Indiegogo in order to improve their prototype and produce new 2000 units.