Merging the physical and digital experience of fun

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Children play with kinetic sand at Robinson’s Cebu’s PLAYLAB.

By Michelle Anne P. Soliman

A little boy busies himself with coloring in a sketch of a lion — bronze crayon for its mane and brown for its body. Upon finishing, he stood up and enthusiastically asked for a staffer’s assistance to scan his work. In just about five seconds, the lion sketch came alive on a flat screen, a view of a forest in the background. The lion walked and sat on the grass together with other animated sketches. The little boy jumped when he saw his work. “There’s my lion!” he called out, fulfilled.

Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC) has introduced PLAYLAB, the country’s first “permanent, indoor, interactive, digital playground” showcasing physical and digital-based playing aids, in its mall in Cebu. The digital playground is offered to complement its family-centered malls.

“PLAYLAB offers Cebuano families a new unique bonding destination that is safe, wholesome, fun and photogenic,” said RLC Regional Operating Manager Darwin Renolayan told visiting media during his presentation at the PLAYLAB Cebu on Jan. 11.

The digital playground (its soft opening was on Dec. 3, 2017) is meant for children from three to 10 years old. The dark 850-sqm playground is illuminated by the multi-colored walls of motion sensor-dependent screens. Artificial turf gives it a playground feel. It is equipped with night vision security cameras. A maximum of 170 children can play there at one time. 

“The technology is available abroad. It’s just a matter of choosing which ones are appropriate for the Philippine market. For Cebu, those that will appeal to the Cebuano family.” Mr. Renolayan said, adding that the software was developed in collaboration with media artists from various countries including Russia, Canada, and the Philippines. 

There are 14 playground attractions that stimulate agility and creativity, give a sense of fulfillment, and promote education and interaction.

Children have fun with the digital interactive games at the playground.

The children are welcomed at the entrance by Tap ‘n Glow — a touch-sensitive light module which changes color upon a light touch or tap. Quantum Space enables the young guests to create fleeting and moving masterpieces — fire, meteor showers, and on-screen color changes — by standing, walking, moving around the installation. The musically inclined will enjoy the Music Wall as it allows them to interact with others while creating musical patterns by touching musical instruments to produce sound. 

A child’s creativity is stimulated in Tangram where random shapes are navigated on a touch-screen desk to create a rocket ship. Once the shapes are in place, pressing the “launch” button will transfer the rocket ship from the desk to the big screen. In the Butterfly Garden, children and adults can decorate their own digital butterflies. Pressing the “Fly” button allows the new creation to navigate among other butterflies projected on the big screen. 

At the Sand Box, imagination is transformed into reality while creating objects from kinetic sand. In Light Brite, a table full of opaque multi-colored sticks allows children to create masterpieces by forming the sticks into different patterns and shapes.

The Save the Reef station promotes awareness of environmental conservation. The children can throw soft ball pillow at the images of trash that appear on the screen — the floating trash explodes into bubbles once hit. 

Active children can put on a pair of 3D glasses and race through a battleground and avoid hitting its walls in Head Rush. Room Racers allows players to engage in a digital car race with the use of wireless game controllers. 

A friendly giraffe talks with the kids as they figure out their height in the Growth Chart.

The World of Zodiacs’ screen is equipped with body recognition sensors that give the visitors a makeover into an animal from the Chinese zodiac sign. To change character, just jump. Your body assumes the figure of a different animal upon landing. 

More time is spent at the Live Forest station where the kids can see their colored animal sketch come to life. Children may choose from a variety of animals to color. Once done, the scanning board transfers the colored sketch which is animated into the forest projected onscreen.

Kids are sure to go through many rounds of the Poppin’ Pond as images of shapes on the slide’s surface explode when the child slides down.

Mr. Renolayan said that RLC plans to open digital playgrounds to prime Robinsons malls in Manila, each of which will have 14 to 18 attractions that differ from those in the Cebu branch. PLAYLABs will open soon in Robinsons Galleria, Robinsons Magnolia, and Robinsons Galleria South in San Pedro.

When asked about the expected reception, Mr. Renolayan told BusinessWorld, “We want to see our customers happily exhausted after playing at PLAYLAB.”

PLAYLAB is located at The Greens, Level 1 of Robinsons Galleria Cebu, General Maxilom Ave cor. Osmena Blvd., Brgy. Tejero, Cebu City, Cebu. It costs P200 per head for two hours on weekdays (and P100 for every succeeding hour or fraction thereof) and P250 per head for two hours on weekends (P100 per every succeeding hour). Socks — which are required — are sold at P50. Children over six years of age may play without a guardian; those below that age must be accompanied by an adult (16 years and above). Group and schools are given a 20% discount for minimum of 40 people if they make reservations. Operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.