It’s fun, it’s challenging and it exercises the body as well as the brain. Vancouver designer Allison Chow has unveiled a device that uses play to tax the mind and exercise the legs.


She calls it Hipo after the hippocampus, the part of the brain that facilitates learning. The object of the device is to drive a ball through a maze of obstructions. The board’s pitch and yaw is controlled with your feet. Team up one person with another and presto, you’ve got a game.


Hipo is made out of birch and melamine. Chow routered the components herself. “Design has a way of making you an expert,” she says of her (forced) foray into carpentry. She had never routered before. Additional pieces and pegs can be inserted to complicate the game.


Chow says she was inspired by her grandfather who broke his leg. Although his leg eventually healed Allison believes his immobility isolated him from his friends and this, she says, hastened his passing. “When we lose our mobility and our independence, we kind of feel there’s no point in trying,” she laments. The experience made her aware of the plight of other seniors who lose mobility and lapse into depression. “We as a community accept it,” she says “but I don’t think we should simply chalk it up as a part of getting old.”  That’s when Hipo was born, a device that brings people together and back on their feet.


Chow calls it a creative caregiver but says Hipo is more than a rehabilitation device.  And it’s not just for seniors. People can play with it just for the fun of it.


She wants to see a Hipo in every home, as familiar a piece of furniture as a posture ball or an exercise bicycle. Her next step is to refine the prototype so that it’s lighter and smaller and make it accessible to everyone.


Watch the video below to learn how Hipo works:


Allison Chow


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