According to the official website, the TIFF Kids digiPlaySpace is “An Award-Winning Interaction Adventure for Kids.” That website blurb is misleading because it’s more than just a single adventure. We had the chance to check out the digiPlaySpace during a recent press preview for the TIFF Kids International Film Festival, and the new all-ages exhibit has something for children of every chronological persuasion.
The 2014 digiPlaySpace is the third annual showcase, and follows the 2013 edition that won the Ontario Museum Association (OMA) Award for Excellence in Programs.
The exhibit – which opened to the public on March 8th and presents traditional video games alongside more experimental interactive art pieces – is intended to teach kids about the joys of technology while also finding new ways to stimulate learning through immersive play. To that extent, the layout is unmistakably kid-friendly, incorporating colors and construction paper and the cast of Sesame Street. Kids will enjoy having words with Big Bird before getting an accessible crash course in robotics and basic circuitry.
Fortunately, there’s more than enough cool tech to hold the attention of parents while the registered dependents are off starring in their own animated movies. Highlights include Cubelets, Super Pong – a digital mash-up of foosball and Pong – and Sphero, a colorful robotic ball that can be controlled with an ordinary smart phone.
There’s also PaperDude VR, a modern take on the old arcade classic Paperboy. The update – from the Toronto-based Globacore – makes use of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that puts you on the paper route and forces you to pedal if you hope to meet your deadline. If you picture an exercise bike hooked up to a Microsoft Kinect, you’re not far off.
Cubelets, meanwhile, are essentially the future’s response to Lego. The do-it-yourself robot kit contains modular blocks that snap together with the help of magnets. One cube acts as the battery. The others control the flow of electricity to create motion and sound-based effects. You can build a fully functional robot in minutes, all without the need for a degree in engineering.
We’ll be interviewing some of the artists later in the month, but you’d be well served to check out the digiPlaySpace in the interim. The program is delightful, and it’s a great opportunity to get a glimpse at the future intersections of technology, education, and entertainment.
The TIFF Kids digiPlaySpace runs until April 21st at the TIFF Bell Lightbox at 350 King St. West. Tickets are $10. The digiPlaySpace is presented in conjunction with the TIFF Kids International Film Festival, which runs from April 8th to April 21st.