How to Create a Kid-Friendly Activation That's Just As Cool As One for Adults

Retailer CAMP's family-friendly experience uses AR and projection-mapping technology to transport kids and parents alike on an interactive trek through the solar system.

Retailer CAMP's family-friendly experience uses AR and projection-mapping technology to transport kids and parents alike on an interactive trek through the solar system.

“Kids are the most fun to design for because they are brutally honest,” said Jake Lee-High, the CEO and creative director of technology innovation lab Future Colossal. “They let you know exactly how they feel about an experience, and if they love it you can instantly see and hear the joy it brings them.”

Lee-High was discussing Cosmic CAMP, a new 8,000-square-foot, family-friendly experience from kid-focused retailer CAMP that's currently taking place in New York. Future Colossal worked with the brand on the consumer event, which uses augmented reality and projection-mapping technology to transport kids and parents alike on a trek through the solar system—complete with extraterrestrial encounters, interactive games, immersive challenges and live performances.

CAMP, which bills itself as an “experiential retailer,” takes a rotational model with a diverse mix of play areas, products and programming through the year, with previous themes like art, travel and cooking. Cosmic CAMP, though, is the brand’s first adventure-themed experience. “Cosmic CAMP is an experience focused exclusively on family play, utilizing game-based challenges with choose-your-own adventures in an immersive world that feels like outer space,” explained Tiffany Markofsky, CAMP’s co-founder and chief communications officer.

CAMP’s internal team of creators and designers came up with the initial vision for the activation and handled most of the fabrication and set pieces, while Future Colossal was brought in to build out the technology and other immersive elements. The experience—which runs on Fifth Avenue until Oct. 31 and will continue in Brooklyn starting Dec. 1—is targeted toward families with children anywhere between the ages of three and 13, and the design teams worked to make games and activities accessible for a variety of different ages.

“One of the best parts of collaborating with CAMP is that they don’t talk down to kids and they wanted to design an experience that was just as good or better than that for adults,” said Lee-High. “Watching kids interact with this experience shows how well kids respond to this philosophy.”

Some of the highlights include a space station kids can climb up into that doubles as a teleportation tube into the rest of the experience, as well as a "Floor Is Lava" game, where families have to make it through the area without stepping on any virtual lava or physical obstacles. There’s also a “remote rover” section where kids can collect coins on an alien landscape by using joysticks and interactive technology, as well as a replicated space launch, black holes and a secret ice cave filled with mind games and important symbols and clues. 

“The black hole meteor toss has easier and lower holes for the littles that get you less points, and more competitive higher holes for older campers who then take on more of a challenge for more points,” added Markofsky as an example of how the team accommodates a variety of age groups. 

The CAMP and Future Colossal teams found that creating an experience for such a diverse age group was the event’s biggest challenge. “Within this group there are vastly different developmental capabilities,” Lee-High pointed out. “To solve this, we created [an RTLS] tracking system and overlaid gameplay on top of what we call playground mechanics. Experiences have no defined start and end, which allows kids to explore and play using their own imaginations while still creating a video game-like structure that engages older kids and parents.”

Beyond the tracking, Lee-High’s team used projection mapping, lidar (light detection and ranging), game engines, custom electronics, physical computing and more to create the immersive experience. “Our goal was to use this tech layer in a way that empowers imagination and physical play. So we were able to design with that in mind,” he said, adding that the CAMP team ensured that some of the more analog moments—like a game show with counselors, physical play moments, slides and more—weren’t lost despite the tech-forward environment and theme. 

“After the year we have all had, CAMP was focused on providing a real getaway for families that transports them into another world,” said Markofsky. “With Cosmic CAMP, we wanted to bring back fun and have the whole family interacting together as a ‘crew.’”

To provide maximum safety for all participants, Cosmic CAMP is timed and ticketed, and masks are required for all entering the space. Attendees over the age of 12 are also required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Tickets cost $35. 

Keep scrolling for a look inside this tech-forward journey into outer space. 

"Cosmic CAMP, an 8,000-square-foot, family-friendly experience from kid-focused retailer CAMP, uses augmented reality and projection-mapping technology to transport kids and parents alike on a trek through the solar system, complete with extraterrestrial encounters, interactive games, immersive challenges and live performances. During a challenge called "The Floor Is Lava," players traverse virtual lava and other physical obstacles. Photo: Courtesy of CAMP"
Cosmic CAMP, an 8,000-square-foot, family-friendly experience from kid-focused retailer CAMP, uses augmented reality and projection-mapping technology to transport kids and parents alike on a trek through the solar system, complete with extraterrestrial encounters, interactive games, immersive challenges and live performances. During a challenge called "The Floor Is Lava," players traverse virtual lava and other physical obstacles.

Photo: Courtesy of CAMP
"A space shuttle area acts as a transport center into the entire exhibit and is completely interactive. Photo: Courtesy of CAMP"
A space shuttle area acts as a transport center into the entire exhibit and is completely interactive.

Photo: Courtesy of CAMP
"Guests enter Cosmic CAMP through a launch pad area that activates fog, mimicking a spaceship that's about to take off. Photo: Courtesy of CAMP"
Guests enter Cosmic CAMP through a launch pad area that activates fog, mimicking a spaceship that's about to take off.

Photo: Courtesy of CAMP
"Each guest receives special space communicators while working to complete their mission inside Cosmic CAMP. The brand worked with Future Colossal on the tech-forward experience. Photo: Courtesy of CAMP"
Each guest receives special space communicators while working to complete their mission inside Cosmic CAMP. The brand worked with Future Colossal on the tech-forward experience.

Photo: Courtesy of CAMP
"Each day, the leaderboard is updated with the highest scores from each team. Photo: Courtesy of CAMP"
Each day, the leaderboard is updated with the highest scores from each team.

Photo: Courtesy of CAMP