Information technology professional David Chung is happy to see children running around the "digital playground" in Cyberport, a sprawling site in Pok Fu Lam that is home to grade-A office blocks, deluxe residences, a five-star hotel, and a retail entertainment complex.
The head of IT operations at Cyberport, which seeks to commercialise creative ideas and incubate business start-ups in Hong Kong, had been exploring an outdoor attraction with a computer element when he discovered a digital playground in Stockholm two years ago.
Finnish children had fun at the internet-connected facility, which also turned out to be a finalist in the Stockholm Challenge 2008, a bi-annual competition that invites cities across the globe to showcase the most innovative information and communication technology applications for society.
Chung contacted the CEO of Stockholm Challenge about bringing the concept to Hong Kong. With the help of Lappset, a Finnish playing and learning environment design company, Cyberport set up "DigiPlayground", the first outdoor digital playground in Asia, in July last year.
"A lot of children stick to the desktop these days and we wanted to find something that is interesting and to [encourage] them to exercise," he says. "It is great - the playground combines the digital and exercise elements, and the platform is not proprietary, so local [game] developers can come up with their own designs."
Combining the latest technologies with traditional play elements, DigiPlayground enables people of all ages to learn, exercise and socialise in online and offline environments. From 7am to 11pm, it opens daily to the public free of charge.
Features include a 10-metre-by-10-metre mat with computer sensors, which offers games and learning experiences aimed at challenging a player's motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, memory and mathematical abilities. Other facilities include the "spin wheel" for training balancing skills and the "football cage" to test one's body control and co-ordination.
Access to some of the games requires the use of the "iCard", a radio-frequency identification and activation device, which can be obtained from the customer service counter at The Arcade in Cyberport. With the iCard, players' scores are recorded and shown on a designated website, enabling them to view their rankings compared with players from around the world. Since its opening, DigiPlayground has had a million iCard hit rates, an average of 2,000 hits daily. There are more than 4,000 iCard registrants.
Cyberport has enabled busloads of students, disabled and elderly people to visit DigiPlayground. Among the visitors were 30 students from PLK Dr Jimmy Wong Chi Ho (Tin Sum Valley) Primary School in Sha Tin last July. "They heard about Cyberport from their study and in the news but had never been there," says teacher Vivien Kam. "We hope Cyberport can offer workshops [providing] e-resources for students in the future."
Game Design Competition
Cyberport invites game designs from primary and secondary students until the end of the month
Three winning entries will be selected from each category
Winners will receive a cash reward of HK$2,000
The games will be uploaded and available for DigiPlayground visitors