Every parent knows the story of the kid who tears open his expensive techno-gift only to spend hours playing with the cardboard box it came in. Laura Seargeant Richardson of Frog Design wants to create a toy that’s as open-ended as the empty box — but gets kids interested in digital technology, too.
So along with her collaborator Alis Cambol, Richardson came up with a vision for the future of play called the Gleeve.
Richardson developed the concept as part of a talk she was giving at MIT on the future of play, in which she pointed out the troubling influence of new media platforms: Kids are getting used to the idea of being mere players in worlds designed by adults, rather than creators of their own play-worlds. But with the right tools, the pendulum of play can still swing back. This graph illustrates the trend she sees, as play escapes the closed worlds designed by adults and enters an open, digital-physical hybrid limited only by kids’ imaginations.
Richardson wondered what a digitally interactive toy that kept kids in control would look like. The Gleeve (a working name combining “glove” and “sleeve”) is designed to do just that, by embodying four pillars of what Richardson considers an ideal play experience: Open environments, flexible tools, modifiable rules, and “superpowers” — the creative spark that turns kids from game players into game designers.
The Gleeve concept is wearable (so that it can be played with right out of the box), networked (to connect to peripherals like tablets or other Gleeves), and open — kids can design their own interactions with the device. Maybe it’s a paintball-like game of tag; maybe it’s hide and seek using RFID homing beacons; maybe it’s an interactive game of digital Monopoly. Or maybe it’s something previous generations could never have come up with at all. That’s the whole point, according to Richardson.
Right now the Gleeve is only a concept, but Richardson says that all the basic technologies to create it already exist. Let’s hope she gets this into production soon, because there are plenty of adults who want one too — me included.