Virgin Media launches connected playground in Islington

David Murphy

Virgin Media O2 is offering a glimpse into the future of children’s play with a connected playground experience with lights, sound and interactive apparatus powered entirely by its gigabit broadband and 5G mobile networks. 

Combining traditional play with connectivity, ‘The Connected Playground’ was inspired by new research into parents’ opinions on how their children play and the role of technology in children’s development.

The research shows that nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of British parents are concerned that their children aren’t getting enough stimulation through outdoor play, with seven in 10 (68 per cent) believing that their kids should have more exposure to playgrounds modernised with technology. 

To make this a reality, Virgin Media O2 has temporarily taken over a playground at Kings Square Gardens in Islington, London, to create an enhanced outdoor play experience that promotes creativity and smart play through technology.

The playground apparatus including swings, slides and climbing frames has been modified with sensors, pressure pads and infrared beams to create an interactive environment which reacts in real time to a child’s movement, enabling them to create their own musical masterpiece as they make their way around the playground.

Each interaction with the playground equipment influences the pitch and tempo, adding another layer of sound to build a piece of music which can be heard through speakers throughout the play area. Once the child has completed the course, their unique music track can be downloaded to take home and listen back to.

As part of the experience, Virgin Media O2 teamed up with Dallington Primary School to offer the pupils (aged six to nine) the opportunity to unlock their creativity and take part in the musical playtime challenge.

Dr Sam Wass, child psychologist and expert on Channel 4’s Secret Life of 4 and 5 Year Olds, said: “The scientific evidence is overwhelming now that spending time outdoors has both immediate and long-term benefits for children’s concentration and mood. But encouraging this as a parent can be hard, because children’s expectations and what they get from digital play are constantly evolving. New hybrid environments, such as Virgin Media O2’s Connected Playground, may in future play a vital role in encouraging children to embrace technology in outdoor settings, and help provide children with the tools they need to think and play creatively.”

Gareth Malone, parent and star of The Choir, said: “Our children live in a connected world of gadgets and gizmos. It's the world they've grown up with. I think it's vital to entice young people outside to engage with a style of play that excites them and that reflects their style of play. Virgin Media O2’s Connected Playground is a great example of that. It uses technology, lighting, sounds and musical elements to provide a sense of achievement which all children strive for in play. I am intrigued to see what else can be done with future technologies and connectivity.”

Virgin Media O2’s Connected Playground at King Square Gardens opened yesterday for two days.  You can find out more and book a free (in both senses) slot, subject to availability, here.