Have a look inside TIFF’s high-tech play paradise for kids

By Vibhu Gairola| Photography by Gabby Frank

The 23 exhibits at TIFF Bell Lightbox’s digiPlaySpace might be meant for kids, but the interactive gadgets, gizmos and games should entertain anyone who misses the good old days of penny arcades. The installations hail from artists and coders from eight countries, and they were co-curated by TIFF’s Elizabeth Muskala and Matt Nish-Lapidus. Here, some of the can’t-miss stations.

The APPcade offers a suite of classic games from the Sago Mini repertoire:



Mimic is an industrial robot arm, like those found in manufacturing lines, that uses four cameras (including one in the ceiling) and basic AI technology to track and react to users’ movements. Guests can walk or make gestures in front of it to see how it responds:



M/O is a collection of 28 iPads that houses a digital version of our solar system. Young astronauts can control comets, bump against planets like air hockey pucks and explore constellations:



In Dobotone, one to four people play a variety of games using the cylindrical controllers, while another player uses dials to change the speed, gravity and music of the game. A special dial even allows users to introduce glitches:



Alphabet is the rare game big enough to accommodate 26 players. They watch a screen, and when their letter come up, they push it, which helps a character onscreen move along an obstacle course. Eating fruit helps the letters travel as a group, but occasionally results in cartoon poop as well:



In Canada on (Green) Screen, an exhibit by Parks Canada, guests can travel (digitally, at least) to gorgeous natural scenes from every province and territory:




Virtual Growth uses motion sensors and projection mapping to let users “catch” the light by tapping it, and then “spread” it by dragging it along the wall:



Catapult LED Coding is one part target practice, one part computer programming. Players have to throw Styrofoam balls into the circular targets in a particular order, based on coding operations, to set off all the lights on the board:



Using a simple drag-and-drop computer program, kids can program the Little Robot Friends as they see fit. When touched, the robots can laugh, show anger, play a lullaby or function as a timer:



Drawbots are DIY art monsters made with hot glue, tape, markers and classic red party cups. Uncap the markers and turn on their motors, and they’ll slowly sketch unique pattern across the table:



Kids can control and interact with this New Dexterity Robot Hand, and even try making one themselves—the electronic schematics and 3D-printing files are open source and available for download online:



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