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A love letter to low-tech interactives

I hate to break it to you… but digital doesn’t always mean better. And low tech doesn’t have to mean boring!

Often attractions and experiences fall into the trap of thinking that ‘interactive’ means ‘digital’ and as a result, many brands are missing the opportunity to engage their guests with tactile, physical experiences that encourage active participation.

There’s an ever-growing market for low tech and screen free attractions. In this increasingly digitised world, there is something alluring about the joy of unplugging; of getting hands-on, using our physical senses and getting stuck in.

Hands-on learning

If ever there was a sub-sector perfectly suited to low tech installations, it’s nature, heritage and museums. Gone are the days where info panels, static displays and passive touch screen displays are enough to excite and educate. Today’s guests want to be included in the narrative and to use all of their senses to experience an exhibit. As many teachers will already know, the best way to teach is to make the lesson so fun that kids don’t realise they’re learning.

Recently we helped the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust create The Whistlestop Cafe; a fun and engaging space for curious minds. We used a variety of tactile, multisensory activities and interactive installations throughout the build. As a result, The Whistlestop Cafe is a place for guests to connect with their local landscape, the natural world and hopefully create memories that will shape their attitudes to nature for years to come.

Many museums know this importance of capturing the tactile curiosity of children full well. Eureka, the UK’s only fully interactive museums for 0-11-year-olds, encourages its visitors to move, stretch, touch, smell, peek and get involved. Of course, Eureka features new and exciting technology and has several high tech installations but they also utilise low tech solutions at every turn, such as touch and feel walls, magnifying glasses, buttons to push and levers to pull.

It’s a museum of active participation and eschews passivity at every turn. This approach is inspiring new generations to take an interest in STEM learning from an early age.

Let imaginations run wild

Another trap that attractions can fall prey to, is believing interactions must be highly structured. Often digital interactions follow a set path, a set storyline with little room for ad-libbing. In comparison, low tech often offers creative freedom.

Brands like LEGO have long understood the value of imaginative play. The LEGO House in Billund is primarily built around the idea that a handful of bricks can become almost anything if you think big enough. The LEGO House is filled with wonderful hands-on build challenges that capture guests attention better than any screen ever could. It’s hard to deny the sheer joy of a great pit of LEGO and all it’s endless building possibilities.

Storytelling is everything

Never substitute technology for a strong narrative. Strong storytelling is at the heart of every successful attraction.

BeWILDerwood adventure park is a perfect example of engaging storytelling. The park’s theming is based on the children’s books of Tom Blofeld. It’s a world of boggles and tiggles and many other magical creatures. BeWILDerwood is a place that encourages guests to embrace magic and play. There are no screens or passive boards to be found here.

Of course, adults of all ages want to indulge their imaginations too! Take the popularity of the newly opened Evermore park, where guests are encouraged to role-play as a fantasy character and carve out their own, bespoke story during their stay. The park offers branching storylines and secret quests for guests to sink their teeth into. The main tool at the park’s disposal for creating this experience is the tried and true method of costumed character actors, possibly one of the most low tech solutions of all!

Give guests permission to be silly

High tech installations can be awe-inspiring and groundbreaking, but there is always the danger that they forget to be fun. In a world saturated by 24 hour news and constant connectivity sometimes all guests want is the chance to shed away their worries and embrace their inner kid.

Millennials are a key audience for this trend, thanks to the rise of the nostalgia-fueled ‘kidult’ phenomenon. Low tech activities offer a much-needed chance to unplug, get goofy and feel like a kid again.

A great example of low tech leisure is London’s Ballie Ballerson. With one simple idea, the brand has created a fun and engaging space where guests can literally dive into the activity. Never doubt the allure of allowing your guests to be silly!

Simple ideas, big impact.

One of the main emotions brands and attractions want their guests to experience is Joy. Joy isn’t complicated, joy is simple and accessible. Two things that complicated screen interfaces and digital interactions often aren’t.

The Stateside pop-up Color Factory is a fantastic example of embracing simplicity. The interactive exhibit eschews complicated digital installations for joy-inducing, uncomplicated experiences. The collective use humble materials such as paper, wood and ribbon to create intriguing displays that encourage curiosity.

In an increasingly digitised world its sometimes easy that participation is at the heart of memorable experiences. Encourage your guests to get involved, and look at things differently. Instead of adding tech for tech’s sake, consider what you want your guests to think, or feel and consider the best way to evoke that emotion. It may be the case that Integrating low tech, hands-on experiences are the answer. While there is undoubtedly a place for fantastical, high tech offerings, we should never overlook the wonder that can be found in the analogue world.

So get stuck in, get silly and get creating.

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Sarah-Anne
Forteith

Sarah-Anne Forteith is our Concept Artist and Designer. A proud Scot with over 8 years experience as a designer. With Katapult Sarah-Anne has worked with Cartoon Network, Merlin, Adventure Leisure, and was the creative lead on a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust project.

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