Traditionally in the Netherlands, children learn to ice skate using a chair that helps them to keep their balance. So as part of a national campaign by the telecommunications company KPN, and together with N=5, we developed a ‘smart’ ice skating chair – the KPN Schaatsstoel, to support and guide children with their first steps on the ice.
With several sensors measuring the child’s skating progress, the chair gives tips & tricks with realtime audio coaching from Sven Kramer, the Dutch Olympic Champion speed skater. We created 20 of them, which were used during the 6 weeks that De Coolste Baan (Olympic Stadium ice skating rink) in Amsterdam was open. During this time, the chairs were used over 12.000 times.
- GPS and accelerometer to measure speed, acceleration and steadiness.
- Screen that displays the various measurements of the child’s skating session.
- Hand pressure sensors that detect whether they are well balanced and not leaning too much to one side.
- An interactive laser projected onto the ice that assists the child in skating straight ahead.
- LED lights shining onto the ice.
- Unique ID for downloading a customised certificate with the data collected from their session.
- 4G GSM running on the KPN network to publish the data to the cloud. We kept this anonymous, which is why we used a unique ID for certificate retrieval.
As a nostalgic starting point, we based the design on a typical school chair and adapted it with our own design. We replaced the original legs with a pair of powder coated iron curved legs which were welded on to help the chair ‘glide’ on the ice, which ensured the kids’ ice skates don’t get stuck in the legs. We also created a custom designed vacuum formed back seat that holds a screen, a speaker and the custom electronics. To give the kids a good grip and also to cover the sensors, we created a mould to cast some fun, bright green silicone handles.
The 20 chairs needed to withstand the playful nature of thousands of kids’ ice skating with them, as well as staying outside 24/7 during the harsh icy winter conditions – therefore much thought went into the design and engineering of the KPN Schaatsstoel. Not only did it need to be simple to use for the kids, but also needed to be easy to operate and maintain for the volunteers working at the rink, with the batteries running for at least a full day of usage.