High-tech playground equipment offers outdoor play revolution
Pioneering electronic play equipment, invented by Loughborough spin out Progressive Sports Technologies, was launched this year, in a bid to tackle childhood obesity by encouraging exercise that is both challenging and fun.
i.play was devised after the leading UK play equipment manufacturer Playdale approached Progressive with a brief to develop a new piece of equipment to encourage energetic play. The inventors believe the fast-paced feedback and constantly changing goals of electronic gaming hold the key to children enjoying challenging physical activity without realising how hard they are working.
i.play issues each player or team with a sequence of tasks to test speed, agility, coordination, strength and stamina by running, jumping and twisting to hit the high, low and mid-positioned activity switches. Like a games console, it offers multiple levels of difficulty so players can improve their skill and view statistics to monitor their performance both during and after the game. Although developed for a core 8 to 14 age group, i.play is also suitable for adults, wheelchair users and visually and hearing impaired players.
Walkers, part of PepsiCo, has installed i.play as a feature of its ‘Parks for Life' initiative. The first of these playgrounds, in Reading and Leicester, were officially opened in September.
Strategic partnership deal signed
Loughborough this year entered into a strategic partnership with IPSO Ventures, which specialises in the commercialisation of university intellectual property (IP).
Under the terms of the agreement, IPSO has right of first refusal to invest in all new spin out companies set up solely with Loughborough University owned IP. Initially to run for ten years, the partnership covers all spin outs other than those relating to mobile and wireless telecommunications research.
IPSO can invest up to £400,000 in each spin out company in return for an equity stake, and is making available for investment at least £3 million over the first five years of the agreement. In return for share equity, IPSO will assist with the establishment of new spin outs by providing funding, business start-up experience, building management teams, business development and by utilising their corporate finance expertise including fundraising, mergers and acquisitions.
IPSO's Chairman, Simon Hunt, said:"Loughborough University has an outstanding industrial track record and strength in depth across its technology base. We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Loughborough's most promising technologies and aim not only to bridge the gap between laboratory and marketplace, but improve the prospects of commercial success after spin out."
Axilia Limited, the first Loughborough spin out supported by IPSO investment, was launched in September.
Vehicle monitoring system moves forward
An infrared imaging system, devised by a Loughborough spin out, won the Transport category award at this year's IET's annual Innovation in Engineering Awards, which celebrate excellence in engineering innovation across a range of industry sectors and engineering disciplines.
The vehicle monitoring system, ‘dtect', automatically counts the number of people in moving road vehicles. It can be used in all weathers, day or night, to instantly detect human skin behind all types of automotive glass at a range of 10 to 100 metres. Its inventor, Dr John Tyrer, designed it as a means of enforcing car sharing priority lanes to ease congestion, but the technology is also used in road tolling and to monitor vehicles entering high security areas.
Since its successful trial on some of the UK's major trunk roads and traffic black spots, ‘dtect' has received considerable investment by Avingtrans Plc, owner of Crown UK, the leading UK supplier of roadside camera housing.