Magical worlds come alive for children at Auckland parks
Dinosaurs, dragons, and fairies are about to take over Auckland playgrounds.
Lace up some walking shoes, grab a mobile or tablet, and head to a park to discover a magical land.
The Magical Park game is returning to Auckland Council parks during spring, using an augmented reality app to turn spaces into a digital fantasy land for children.
Created by Melanie Langlotz of Geo AR Games, it's one way of getting kids active and enjoying playgrounds - without leaving their screens behind.
"The way I see it is, don't tell them it's exercise, tell them it's a game," Langlotz says.
Developed over the past six years, Langlotz first had the idea for the game as a way of enticing her stepdaughter off the computer to play outside.
Since then, she's established Geo AR Games, built an augmented reality game, and partnered with councils in New Zealand and overseas to provide it for free.
It had its Auckland debut last year, and is available at 13 parks in the region this spring, including nine south Auckland parks.
Children travel to different worlds involving robots, aliens, dinosaurs, and kittens, helping a dragon collect crystals to protect Dragonland.
Each park has a specially designed game, which can't be played outside a designated area - with signposts to prevent children running into hazards or the road.
Langlotz says the game is different to 2016's popular app Pokemon Go.
It takes up to an hour to complete, is only available in certain areas, and has elements to keep kids' interest piqued when they're not at a park, like hatching dragon eggs.
"We thought 'what can we do to get kids begging to go back to the park'."
The four south Auckland local boards have provided funding to continue hosting the game for a year, with the specific parks to be decided on in late October.
Of those, Papatoetoe's Milton Park and Pearl Baker Reserve in Ōtara are both trialling the game, and the one with the most use will take it on long term.
Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board chairwoman Lotu Fuli says it's bringing playgrounds into the new millennium while making use of underutilised parks.
Auckland Council can be quite slow to pick up modern technology advances, she says, so the app is a great way of bringing it into the modern era.
"This is really good as it shows we're understanding the world is evolving and kids are into technology and that's the world they live in," Fuli says.
"That can't be ignored, we've got to be up with the play."
Parks hosting the app are Onepoto Domain, Harbourview People's Park, Barry Curtis Park, Coyle Park, Auckland Domain, Bruce Pulman Park, Ray Small Park, Randwick Park, Mountfort Park, Milton Park, Pearl Baker Reserve, Imrie Park, and David Lange Park.
For more information and to download the app head to geoar.tech/home