The age of imagination is now colored with the elements of reality like never before. At the 18th Annual THEA Awards in 2012, Kongeparken in creative partnership with GW Group, Koolfog, Inc, Visual Terrain, Sigma Services and Alcorn McBride was awarded with prestige Best Attraction with a Limited Budget for their Barnas Brannstasjon (Children’s Fire Station). Keeping consistent with the theme park’s six values, the design and creation of the Children’s Fire Station focused on the importance of learning, playing, sharing, exploring, excitement and magic.
As the fire bell rings, children gather their fire suits and emergency response gear to respond to the simulated fire produced by Koolfog’s fog effects. As the smoke billows out of every open window and doorway just down the street, the fire trucks whisk the dressed and ready children towards the simulated emergency. Parents gather and watch at this seemingly innocent play.
These simulated experiences are not only found in theme parks and museum exhibits but are used in the American military for more serious training. Immersive environments that simulate emergency situations allow rescue personnel (and children) to familiarize themselves with their own response skills, seek out and allocate resources properly and learn how to team-build in critical situations. Technologists use fog and smoke effects, scenting generators and digital interfaces to aid in the development of these environments to capture a sense of true reality.
Play has been re-defined. Dressing up in a fire suit isn’t quite enough for this next generation. As the children giggle in response to the billows of fog, it becomes apparent that their kind of play has become considerably more complex. These children who play in the fog, who drive their fire trucks on tracks, who giggle underneath their fireman’s hat, they will soon be the emergency responders, the doctors, the mechanics or even, quite possibly, the next wave of technologists who develop similar kinds of productive play for their own children.
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