Fun Tech For Playgrounds

July 11, 2017
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Vancouver-based tech company, Biba Ventures, is turning sedentary screen time into a fun-for-the-whole-family playground adventure.

During the dog days of summer, children often retreat indoors to play games on the iPad, Nintendo DS, Xbox, or kick it old school in front of the TV. Most parents feel some level of guilt, maybe even shame, having read the latest post proving that screen time is melting their kids’ brain. Whether you believe the science or not, you can’t deny that technology is a fast-moving, ever-changing beast, with tentacles reaching into almost every facet of life.

Vancouver-based tech company, Biba Ventures, has jumped on the idea that it’s not the children who need to find better ways of using time, rather, the adults. Go to any playground, library, mall in North America and you’ll see it’s the adults glued to their phones, modelling the unhealthy screen-time behaviour. By empowering adults with a free and easy-to-use app chock-full of age-appropriate games, the adult can become the game leader, the head archaeologist out for a virtual dinosaur bone hunt, or the collaborative architect of a radical relay.

The adult engages with the children, the playground becomes a real life augmented reality play-zone and everyone gets active.

As an added bonus, while the games are played, data is collected and can be securely shared with community development stakeholders. This has the potential to shape how playgrounds are used and developed in the future.

On the surface this sounds and looks like a win-win. Still a little skeptical? Us too. So we contacted the CEO of Biba Ventures, Matt Toner, to ask the questions we know you want answers to.

How do you explain the Biba Ventures concept to parents who grew up with no exposure to digital technology or to the parents who are strongly against any form of screen time for children?

Managing screen time is a challenge for virtually every modern family, and some will take a strong stance against it, no doubt. But for the others, our goal is to help parents strike the right balance between the screen-based fun their kids want and the imaginative, physical, outdoor play that they need.

Our games are always free to play and they build on familiar game mechanics from traditional children’s play: make believe, storytelling, treasure hunts, obstacle courses. The integration of the augmented reality markers and the parent’s smartphone lets us include all of the digital fun that kids have come to enjoy.

Many playgrounds are taking on a more plastic and metal primary color manufactured look and feel, replacing wooden/natural colored structures. Do you see this trend hindering or complementing the Biba Ventures gaming integration

Our games are designed to work principally through the imagination of the child, and secondarily through whatever equipment might be in the playground itself.  Longstanding or brand new playgrounds both get the same “bump” in play value for the community.

How do you use the gathered game data?

We use the game data in two ways: firstly, and most importantly, to make better games for kids and their caregivers! But secondly, we also want to better understand what happens in play spaces across North America. We think that policy makers, city planners, schools and parent associations are going to be very curious about the insights we can provide.

What next steps are in the works for Biba Ventures?

We are getting a lot of interest from cities further afield, so naturally we want to bring Biba playgrounds to every community that could benefit.  At the same time, we want to make sure that we keep abreast of new tech trends and developments so that our games are always on the cutting edge of fun.

While Biba playgrounds are not yet available in Vancouver, you can bet it is on the way. Biba Ventures was a finalist at this years Technology Impact Awards and nominated by the Small Business BC awards in the Best Concept division. In the meantime, give your phone a time-out and go play with your kids!