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27 January 2010 | PR 10/11

Outdoor play equipment from Loughborough sports technologists has national impact on children’s activity

iplay, Lincoln city centre

The i.play in use at the Lawn, Lincoln city centre (reproduced by permission of Lincoln City Council)

An interactive, solar-powered playground game invented at Loughborough University is having a profound impact on children’s activity levels.  The focal point of over 50 playgrounds across the UK, i.play is increasingly integrated into government / EU initiatives to develop parks to complement nearby community health centres.

As government research reveals that over one in five children in the UK start school overweight, with the figure approaching one third of 10 to 11 year-old pupils, keeping children active has never been more important.

i.play combines traditional physical activity with interactive gaming to test speed, agility, coordination, strength and stamina.  Like Wii and xbox gaming, players can choose different levels, compete against themselves or others and improve their ranking on a league table.

Over 700,000 games have been played on i.play since its launch over two years ago.  The residents of Lincoln have clocked up an amazing 35,000 games in one year since i.play was installed in The Lawn, the city’s popular play area.  Antony Angus, Team Leader for Recreation Services at the City of Lincoln Council, is delighted with i.play’s impact.  He said: “35,000 games, some of which will be multi-player, has far exceeded our expectations.  Even more important is the excellent feedback we continue to get from families and young people, many of whom inform us that they purposely go to The Lawn to use the i.play.”

Cumbria-based play equipment manufacturer, Playdale, approached Progressive Sports Technologies, a Loughborough University spin out, in 2005 to develop an innovative playground game.  The Progressive team developed the electronic-based game incorporating activity switches (i.turn,  i.stamp, i.push,  i.pull, i.press, i.spin) designed to maximise muscle activity and develop motor skills for children of all ages and abilities including wheelchair users.  Solar energy powers integrated speakers to announce activities at random and give instant feedback via LED displays. 

The concept of ‘stealth’ exercise is at the heart of i.play.  Loughborough research conducted by Dr Phil Hodgkins, at the time a PhD student within the Sports Technology Research Group, revealed that children enjoyed i.play so much, they focused on trying to improve their score without noticing how much effort they were putting in.  Results from a group of 10 to 12 year-olds revealed the same rate of calorific burn as playing football.

Professor Mike Caine, Director of Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute and co-founder of Progressive Sports Technologies, said:  “It’s really rewarding to see the positive impact of i.play from both a social and economic perspective. This project demonstrates what can be achieved when a University research group, spinout company and privately owned SME collaborate.”

i.play installations are planned throughout the UK and developments are in process for a European launch within the next 12 months.

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Anna Seddon
Marketing & Communications Manager, Enterprise Office
Loughborough University
T: 01509 223445
E: A.J.Seddon@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2009 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top five universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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