Dinosaur Eggs and Kitten Catching a hit in Wellington Parks

30 August 2016

Wellington City Council has been drawing more children and their families to the city’s parks with virtual games where the objective is to round up kittens and collect dinosaur eggs.

Magical Park is an augmented reality experience aimed at getting kids outdoors, specifically aimed at children aged 6-11, and developed by GEO AR Games.

“The initial objective was to look at ways to get kids active, and to get them into parks,” says Tim Park, Environment Partnership Leader for Parks, Sport and Recreation at Wellington City Council.

“We started running Magical Park in June, as a trial, and it’s been really popular both in high and low socio-economic areas.”

The app is being trialed in two Wellington parks – Waitangi Park along the waterfront, and Kainui Reserve in Hataitai. Others are testing it, including city councils in Auckland, Porirua and the Hutt Valley.

The New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) has taken note of the project’s potential to encourage physical activity and increased use of parks, and has partnered with GEO AR Games to promote the Magical Park service to territorial authorities and NZRA Parks Agencies Managers’ Group members.

Through NZRA, councils and other members can have the Magical Park service installed at a park in their area for $2,500 per year. The service includes two games: Augmentia and Dino Land. In Augmentia, children have to round up kittens before a bad fairy catches them, and in Dino Land, they must collect eggs while they explore the park and avoid the fearsome tyrannosaurus rex.

Mr Park says that the games, which are promoted on Wellington City Council’s Facebook page and on site at the parks, have clearly had a positive effect. And they have the added attraction of being completely free for users.

“In Waitangi Park, for example, we had up to 30 users a day during the school holidays,” he says.

“In general, we find that kids using the app are running around for an average 25 minutes per session, and up to 52 minutes per session.”

Attracting more children to the parks means other family members become more active too, he says.

While Magical Park may not yet be as well known as Pokemon Go, the app has definite advantages.

“It’s a lot safer than Pokemon Go because the app simply doesn’t work when you leave the park,” Mr Park says. The games also have road and water detection applications, so children get an alert if they get too close to a road or water while playing the game.

GEO AR Games chief executive Melanie Langlotz says the technology used in Magical Park is also more up to date than that of Pokemon Go.

“Pokemon Go is using ancient technology. In Pokemon Go, you turn on the screen and you see things but you can’t get closer to them, the Pokemon are always the same distance away. In our case, you can walk up to things and interact with them.”

Magical Park attracts children to parks because they want to play the games. But it also means they end up doing things like using the parks’ play equipment, climbing trees, taking time out for a family picnic, more than they normally would.

“To me, Magical Parks is a Trojan horse to get kids into the outdoors,” says Ms Langlotz. “After half an hour playing Magical Park, the kids get interested in other activities and start playing tag or going on the swings.”

She says children typically play the game for an average half hour, but some kids play in intervals. “They play for 10 minutes, then go on the playground, then come back for another 10 minutes, before exploring the park, and then another 10 minutes.”

Magical Park has other potential applications. For example, councils can have virtual art in parks, which become viewable when phones are pointed at a specific area. Real-world infrastructure and businesses like food and coffee carts could be set up around these areas.

Councils can also purchase games tailored to coincide with a specific event or to suit a specific environment. For example, Magical Park is offering a Halloween-themed augmented reality experience for councils who subscribe to the service. The experience includes a graveyard theme.

Mr Park at Wellington City Council says the next step for councils’ trialing the app will be to make it a permanent fixture in parks.

“A lot of people who use digital devices are not active,” he says. “This is a good way to change that. It’s definitely a developing trend.”

Want to know more about the Halloween event offer or how Magical Park could be used in your council’s parks? Email NZRA Parks and Open Spaces Project Manager Jude Rawcliffe at jude@nzrecreation.org.nz.

MoST Content Management V3.0.7328