Guide to VR Playgrounds: Building Custom Virtual Reality Experiences for Kids

Guide to VR Playgrounds: Building Custom Virtual Reality Experiences for Kids

In today’s fast-paced digital world, keeping kids engaged can be challenging. Well-designed play spaces can transform your business, entertaining kids and creating memorable experiences. Virtual reality allows companies to introduce play environments, regardless of space limitations, opening up kids’ play areas to various businesses. The global virtual reality market will be worth more than $25 billion by 2030, as more organizations leverage the considerable benefits.

Creating VR play areas is the entertainment of the future. The initial design is complex, but with the professionals by your side, you can captivate audiences and turn your venue from a play space into a destination.

What Is VR Technology?

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated 3D environment that lets users explore and interact with a different reality. Developers create these environments through a combination of hardware and software. The simulation is closely oriented to the real-world environment. The software produces a mix of new and familiar elements from graphics, audio and other sensory inputs to create a virtual world that feels real.

Users must wear hardware, such as a VR headset, motion controllers and sensors, to track their real-time movements. Several types of VR exist, including:

  • Non-immersive: This type of VR limits interaction with the digital environment, such as video games and simulators.
  • Semi-immersive: In this environment, digital components overlay actual elements in the environment so you can use them similarly — ideal for kids’ educational purposes.
  • Immersive: In this VR environment, users exist entirely in the virtual world. Immersive VR is most popular in gaming and involves specialist tools to make the simulation seem completely real.
  • Augmented reality: Somewhat similar to VR, augmented reality overlaps the digital and physical worlds.

The Benefits of Virtual Reality for Kids

While VR was traditionally reserved for gamers and education, VR for families is quickly becoming popular. It allows kids and their parents to play in various imaginative settings. However, VR goes beyond a fun experience, offering several significant benefits for kids, including:

  • Lower stress: Kids of any age experiencing stress can transport themselves to another world with VR, boosting their moods. VR games can lower your blood pressure and improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. VR playgrounds are the perfect setting for kids to unwind.
  • Better balance: As VR is interactive, kids who play certain VR games have better balance and fine motor skills. Gameplay also improves their mobility, especially when they need to use their whole bodies to play.
  • Physical activity: Unlike sedentary video games, VR games double up as a physical workout. Kids can have fun and enjoy the experience without even realizing they’re getting the exercise.
  • Improved vision: Partaking in certain games could help improve vision. Fast-paced games can also cause a release of dopamine and adrenaline, supporting brain health.
  • Increased confidence: VR games can help shy kids learn to express themselves. As they create their own world where they’re in control, kids can gain confidence and experience feelings of accomplishment.
  • Enhanced education: Many VR games incorporate an educational element, especially in well-thought-out VR playgrounds.

How to Design a VR Playground

Playground design affects how kids perceive and interact with their space, facilitating interaction with each other and getting the most from the VR design elements. Some critical considerations for designing a VR playground include:

1. Safety Standards and Regulations

Like with a conventional playground, safety is the highest priority when designing a VR playground. While VR playgrounds are a relatively new phenomenon, many of the same safety standards and regulations apply to any commercial play area. Use your local standards, laws and requirements as a framework for your design to ensure it’s compliant from the outset.

Some general standards and regulations to consider include:

Any commercial playground design must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of disability. Any commercial play area must meet the following stipulations:

  • Include an accessible path to the edge of the play area, either from your building or the parking lot.
  • Design accessible pathways from the edge of the play area to the equipment.
  • Ensure your play area surfacing follows ASTM 1591, which determines the accessibility of surfacing systems around and underneath playground equipment.
  • Keep any play equipment accessible, depending on the design.

As VR transports kids to another reality, keeping them safe in the real world is essential. Consider how you will prevent kids from inadvertently leaving the play area and ensure your design keeps them oriented to avoid injury risks.

2. Layout and Space

One of the best things about designing a virtual reality playground is creating a unique experience, regardless of space limitations. Quality VR equipment can be expanded or contracted to suit your space. Whatever space you have available, consider the following elements to get the most out of your space:

  • Flexibility: VR playgrounds can evolve depending on your theme, age group and other factors. Your layout should facilitate this evolution to accommodate different audiences and games without significant changes.
  • Capacity: Consider how many kids you can safely accommodate in the available space. As VR playgrounds require specialized equipment, your design should allow kids to enjoy the experience without feeling overcrowded or bumping into one another.
  • Topography: The layout of your real environment will frame the VR experience. Is your space a room with a single level, a collection of rooms or a multistory area? Consider incorporating different levels and secret spaces to spark the imagination and add another dimension to the journey.
  • Storytelling: VR takes kids on an adventure. They can progress through different game levels, solve a mystery, find a hidden object and more. Your design should facilitate them moving through their story, building excitement and encouraging exploration.

3. Equipment and Infrastructure

A VR playground requires specific equipment and infrastructure to operate. With an idea of your capacity, you can explore your options for VR headsets and spatial tracking. Kids in your play area should have access to the equipment they need to partake in the experience.

In addition to physical equipment, your VR playground requires a digital infrastructure, including hardware, software and sensory elements like haptics, olfactory elements, textures and sounds. VR technology constantly evolves, so explore ways to integrate new technologies like VR treadmills and haptic feedback devices, making the experience more immersive.

4. Design

You can unleash your imagination and design your unique VR experience with the above parameters. As you’re not limited by physical equipment, you can create something truly memorable. Your playground should inspire creativity and ignite the imagination. Most importantly, it should keep kids interested from the moment they arrive.

Some design considerations for your virtual reality play area include:

  • Theme: The minute kids put on the VR gear, you’re no longer limited to a single theme. You can create multiple experiences in the same space. Each experience, however, should have a distinct theme to capture the imagination and support an immersive journey.
  • Age appropriateness: A kid-friendly VR setup should suit your target age group. In a playground setting, it can be challenging to accommodate different age groups, as kids have different levels of understanding and attention. With VR, it’s possible to craft shared experiences for different age groups, varying complexity with each VR headset. Avoid mature content that may scare kids or cause anxiety.
  • Education: A virtual reality playground doubles as an opportunity to educate kids, from refining their fine motor skills to enhancing problem-solving. Consider how you can incorporate learning opportunities throughout gameplay.
  • Safety: While you can push the boundaries with virtual reality, keeping kids safe and comfortable is always a primary concern. Avoid excessive motion, height or dizziness. An essential part of your VR design is providing kids with clear guidance through intuitive instructions, feedback and hints that help them navigate and interact with their virtual environment.
  • Comfort: Consider the size and weight of the VR headsets and other equipment, making it easy for kids to adjust them to fit their heads and hands.
  • Secrets and surprises: Like a traditional playground, incorporating secret dens, hidden passageways and unexpected journeys can spark curiosity, build confidence and encourage exploration.
  • Engagement: Your VR design should foster creative and social engagement, allowing kids to express themselves, explore their interests and learn new skills. Enable kids to interact with other users in the same location or elsewhere.
  • Diversity and inclusivity: Your VR content should reflect diverse and inclusive representation, avoiding bias, stereotypes and discrimination. Designing your VR playground is an opportunity to celebrate diversity, empowering kids through impactful storytelling.
  • Charging and docking stations: As you need enough outlets to charge your VR headsets and controllers, consider creating a docking station for your VR equipment and place it somewhere that doesn’t interrupt the experience.

5. Maintenance, Software Updates and Content Curation

Another crucial factor to consider in VR play areas for kids is maintenance. Consider the following to boost equipment longevity:

  • VR headset or glasses and controller covers: Kids will use your VR equipment extensively, so protecting it is essential to reduce costs. Covers are an easy and cost-effective addition to your VR playground.
  • Cleaning equipment: Hygiene is always a principal consideration in VR playgrounds. Consider how you’ll keep headsets, screens, gloves and surfacing clean and sterile.
  • Cable management: Cables can represent a safety hazard for kids. As you design your VR playground, formulate a plan for safely placing and hiding cables.
  • Preventive maintenance: Setting up a regular maintenance schedule can avoid more extensive repair and replacement costs. Inspect your equipment regularly and record any repairs. Tackling minor problems stops them from becoming expensive issues.

In addition to maintaining the physical equipment, you must ensure you can update your software and curate new content to keep the experience fresh and exciting. One of the most appealing elements of virtual reality is its ability to reinvent the same space.

Think about how you’ll keep the environment fresh and exciting with new content. You may want to take your play area somewhere completely different, or you may want to delve deeper into an existing story. The choice is yours — add new elements to engage the kids and inspire the imagination.

Creating Custom VR Experiences for Kids

Building VR for kids is a multifaceted undertaking. It takes collaboration and imagination to leverage technology to create something unique and memorable. Any business looking into incorporating a VR play area wants it to be engaging enough that kids and their parents will return for more. Working with a team of experienced professionals who understand the intricacies of designing for kids can elevate your play area into a one-of-a-kind destination.

Some of the critical processes to include in the creation of your custom VR experience include:

Brainstorming, Storyboarding and Prototyping

A VR experience must be a cohesive story with a clear goal. Building it starts with a theme and a purpose. Consider why you’re designing your VR playground. What should it achieve? Use your goal to support your brainstorming and inform your story.

Once you have a story and a theme, it’s time to move to the prototyping stage, which involves creating realistic mockups and testing the flow, clarity and technical aspects of the VR experience before you enter the building phase. As you prototype, you can look for additional opportunities to include concepts and interactions into tangible elements of your story.

Collaborating With Industry Professionals

Creating custom VR experiences involves many elements, such as visuals, stories and design. The best VR experiences incorporate input from education experts, content creators, game developers and architects to create a cohesive journey that engages kids from beginning to end.

Input from educators and other experts in building play spaces for kids is essential to keep your VR playground age-appropriate and stimulating. From there, you can bring creativity into the mix, pushing the boundaries of imagination.

Integrating Different Themes and Genres

When kids enter a virtual world, they can do anything. They can interact with fantasy creatures, travel across the seas on a pirate ship and explore fantastic new environments without leaving the safety of your play space. Depending on your theme and goals, you can integrate as many ideas and stories as possible. Some starting points could include:

  • Reliving the age of the dinosaurs.
  • A virtual reality field trip to a faraway location, like the African plains.
  • A journey into space.

Interactive projection mapping is a technology that transforms a flat surface into a dynamic, interactive display. Kids can engage with the projected images, play games, solve puzzles and explore new environments. With this technology, you can bring your theme to life, immersing kids in an unexplored world.

Gathering Feedback for Continuous Improvement

One of the principal goals in building interactive play areas for your business is to entertain kids and encourage their families to become repeat customers. It’s best to get feedback from your target audience as you develop your playground. Because VR and other digital alternatives are so flexible, you can adjust it in real time so your play space continues engaging kids as their needs change.

Bring Your Play Area to Life With Gameparx From SoftPlay®

Virtual reality allows you to create something unique. With the right equipment, you can transform imagination into reality. SoftPlay, the global leader in playground equipment, is pushing the boundaries of innovation and leveraging the latest technology to create the Gameparx experience.

As an exhilarating alternative to the VR play space, our groundbreaking play engine projects graphics on floor-to-ceiling screens, immersing users in a unique world that evolves alongside your imagination. Regardless of your space limitations, Gameparx is an attraction with infinite applications and audiences. Request a demo and embrace the future with SoftPlay today.

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