Unveiling the future of play

Posted on Thu 2 Oct 2014
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The fourth round of REACT Sandbox funding has been announced today - six successful bids have secured funding to complete their proposals for Play Sandbox, which sees academics, companies and children collaborate for the first time to design six new products for play.

From digitally enhanced playground swings, a game involving a gang of mice to help children with Down's Syndrome understand numbers, and an immersive story den brought to life, each team has been awarded £50,000 to develop prototypes that will mobilise play in new and transformative ways.

REACT Managing Producer Jo Lansdowne says,

"Play Sandbox is built on the proposition that the best products for children are made with children. We have recruited fourteen children to act as Young Coaches to ensure we do things right, they are our partners in the design process, challenging us to make better things with their imaginations, opinions and values. Sandbox is a space in which project teams can turn an experimental idea into a working prototype over four months of rapid R&D. It is a great opportunity to experiment, explore and take risks, and never more so with our latest REACT theme, Play."

Kieron Kirkland, resident magician and Play Sandbox advisor adds,

"As adults we're not playful enough. Most of us get stuck in the same story. Maybe we're too cynical, jaded or lazy to make up new roles or rules. Maybe the practical pressures of adult life mean that the boundaries between our real and imaginary worlds get closer together. So with Play Sandbox we want to ask, how is your playful experience changing what it possible? How is it redefining how people interact with the world, themselves and each other?"

Play Sandbox is the latest from REACT, a four-year programme launched in 2012 and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Earlier themes addressed Heritage, Books & Print, Future Documentary, and Connected Objects. The research and development will be completed in February and prototypes showcased to the public in the spring.

The REACT Play Sandbox six commissions are:

Mighty Minis are a series of toys that combine a collectible intelligent object with a dynamic online character in a uniquely interactive way. The emphasis is on getting children away from the screen and focusing on physical activity and play in the real world.

Curio Keepsake will enable children to record a story to a precious object and then trigger the story when the object is played with. With support from leading adoption agency, Coram, this product aims to help children, especially those that have been adopted or are in care, understand who they are and to support them through times of change and uncertainty.

Mice of Mischief is a game for tablets. It is designed to help children with Down's Syndrome understand numbers, but it will be fun and challenging for everyone. You play a gang of mice, who are trying to protect their delicious cakes from a Rascally Lion by building a series of dastardly traps!

Flatpack Cinema is an immersive story den, brought to life by interactive 360 projections and played with using an interface made from ordinary household objects. When children enter the first story, they become an astronaut on board the rocket of the first dog in space, Laika.

STRAX is a game of stacking smart objects for 2 players. Co-operate to stack your blocks in the tallest tower possible, and compete to arrange blocks in high-scoring patterns, while a computer tracks your every move. STRAX combines the depth of digital gameplay with a physical, social experience.

Connected Play is a digitally enhanced set of swings, exploring how imaginary and physical play meet in the digital playground of the future. Working with light, rhythm and sound they will create an intuitive space where children can battle one another, perform and participate, playing together in both new and familiar ways.

Keep up to date with the progress of the projects as they develop on the Projects page.