Move over, slides and swings. Landscape Structures is bringing electronic activities to American playgrounds.
The Delano-based manufacturer of school and park equipment has launched Pulse, a line of outdoor, multisensory games that engage kids in high-action, electronic versions of tennis, table tennis or tag.
Pulse game stations resemble parking meter stands but have the kind of game show buzzer-bubbles that contestants love to slap. Each post is waterproof, lights up, plays music, bleeps, zoinks and emits colorful swirls of LED lights in response to an opponent’s speedy touch.
Sounds and lights from one perky pod will encourage a player to dash to the pod before the light or sound dies. Each tap on the bubble prompts a crazed reaction from pods on the opponents’ side of the court or table. That prompts lots of giggles, concentration and dashing from opponents.
“It’s interactive and competitive and really keeps them moving,” said Patrick Faust, the Landscape Structures president, who gave Pulse a whirl during a recent convention with 300 employees and 300 sales representatives. “I was laughing and bumping into people and huffing and puffing. It was a lot of fun,” he said.
It took five employees, two years and hundreds of thousands dollars for Landscape Structures to bring Pulse to market. So far, prototypes are in parks in Delano, Phoenix and Omaha. A fourth is headed soon to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation in Colorado, which offered insights about how helpful the equipment could be for children with sensory issues.
If successful, Pulse could dramatically expand Landscape Structures’ sales and keep its workers busier for years to come. The employee-owned manufacturer already brings in more than $90 million in sales making regular playground structures for companies around the globe. The new games range in price from $12,995 to $15,850.
Faust and Landscape Structures CEO Steve King expect it will take two years of marketing before orders really take off. They hope Pulse will become a standard addition to many of the 75,000 school, park and amusement park playgrounds the company has built around the world.
Landscape’s bright, colorful playgrounds already grace Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, Qatar, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
So far, early reviews on Pulse are positive. “We have already heard from one park director who wants to put them into his own office so employees can get some fun and exercise,” Faust said.
Adults aside, the idea behind Pulse was to create a tool that promotes child activity and hand-eye coordination by using different kinds of sensory stimulation.
Pulse has three game versions that offer fun for all children, regardless if they are in a wheelchair, able-bodied, have sensory issues, autism or other learning issues.
Stacy Zimmerman, communications director for the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association, said the Pulse game was recently certified by her group. That process can take up to six months.
“We promote the importance of play and its physical, emotional and cognitive benefits,” she said. The association “also believes that having playgrounds that are accessible to kids with disabilities is very important.”
Its tennis version emits “thunks” similar to the sound of a tennis ball hitting the court. Pulse table tennis sounds like ping-pong balls are smacking a table. Pulse Tempo lets children chase after intermittent swirling lights on the various posts, just like in a game of tag.
The Delano City Council and city administrator Phil Kern installed a Pulse Tennis unit in a city park in July after giving it a try. “I thought it was spectacular,” Kern said. “It provided not just physical play, but a way to touch, hear and see it on a variety of levels.”
Since the eight-player tennis system was put in, “The feedback we received from the community has been very positive. The kids are talking about it, so that tells you that it was memorable for them,” Kern said. “I can see schools installing these as an add-on to their play structures.”
The idea of bringing electronics into the daylight isn’t new for Landscape Structures. Officials have been toying with various game ideas for six years. But this is the first effort where the product development team easily combined electronics, the outdoors and fun to win strong reviews, Faust said.
Pulse was developed with input from partners such as the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation and the Miracle League, a company that builds accessible baseball fields for players with disabilities.
Because Landscape Structures already builds playgrounds for children with disabilities, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to design a product that had multisensory and physical requirements, Faust said.