Tiles - The Task
The project involved designing a toy for 4-8 year old children. It was a collaborative task between user experience and industrial designers. We undertook in depth research to understand the psyche of children and parents to identify their problems and expectation.Finally, we designed a toy which can be used by parents as a method of teaching and informing their children.
Making a toy for kids is challenging. Consulting parents could be one solution, but that solution is from the parent's point of view. The baseline should start from what kids want, and go ahead to what parents approve. This problem is hard to tackle, but thats what we wanted to do.
We identified that we need to understand more about what kids want. Our stop was Toy store which would possibly give us a better grasp and insight of what we would need to do so we selected…
Fly on the walls
We wanted to try a different approach. Instead of a scripted interview, we asked impromptu questions to make it more casual. We wanted to keep it authentic and original. Approaching parents and kids and starting a conversation without making it formal was quite easy. We got a lot of interesting insights.
"I prefer to buy toys which are fun but has educational value."
I am not really worried about the cost, I want to buy toys which are educational. I would also like a toy which has varieties of usage. My child should enjoy and learn at the same time they play.
Lifestyle and values
“I like all the toys, but I like scrabble more."
I like to play with toys I can use to build stuff. I prefer educational toys too, but I would like them to be fun. It would increase the value of it in my life.
Lifestyle and values
Round robin technique
We decided to design an education toy for the kids. We then wanted to focus on specific families and understand their needs and wants. We approached three different families interviewed them in the process of designing the toy.
Once we identified that we had to focus on making a toy for kids, we wanted to make sure it has to have educational importance. We then wanted to focus on specific families and understand their needs and wants for which we asked three different families and identified what we will need to focus on while creating the toy.
Rose thorn bud
After speaking with these families, we further narrowed down the 5 ideas. We did a quick "rose thorn bud" to eliminate ideas and find the one most appropriate. Each idea was unique in style and was fulfilling the needs identified by us.
The chosen one
After a lot of scrutinizing and research, we finally identified which toy out of 5 we would like to concentrate on. We named it Tiles.
An Arduino powered LED brick which displays alphabets, numbers and may be in future kids can even play as a classic arcade game.
To start with, kids have to create small words such as bus, egg, duck etc. The tiles will have those words displayed. After that, the kids have to arrange them to form a word to which the tiles will react with a smiley and pronounce it. However if wrong, the tiles will form a frowny face and ask the kid to try again. Another function of those tiles is to help kids with math problems. The tiles will be displayed with numbers and the kid has to form arithmetic equations to solve the problem.
We started to test and fidget with an Arduino kit and the led matrix to come up with a simple alphabet and numeric display. The process was surprisingly hassle free and we got it up and running in no time. We then tried and created a few 3D printed cases to see if the board and the LED brick fit in. After a few iterations, we came up with a final tile in which we could fix the Arduino board and the brick.
We integrated a single brick instead of four for prototyping purpose. It was a nice mold in which the Arduino and the LED brick fit in perfectly. We added a pixie glass over it to make it more authentic.
Connection with parents
Now that the toy was created and in a working condition, it was time to verify if the parents would allow their kids to play with it. Apart from that, to add another layer of supervision we thought of an idea which we tried implementing, we came up with a flashcard solution. We added a QR code on these cards which has images of the objects the kids need to spell. Once the QR code is scanned the system will identify what word it is, and automatically assign each tile with an alphabet. The kid then has to arrange it to form a word.
Once we had everything ready, it was time to actually test it with kids and parents. We headed out to a family with 3 kids. Penny is 6, Peterson is 8 and Patt is 12. We handed their mother a card which could scan the code (At this point in time there was no communication between the scanned word and the tiles we 'Ozed it'; Wizard of OZ technique). Once the code was scanned we displayed the letter on our tile and took 2 wooden tiles to complete the word.
Parents loved the new form of teaching. Scanning cards or manually choosing a word gives them the freedom to teach their kids the way they want.
Kids like the way they snap. It has magnets on two sides. Once the word is complete the tiles express; a way of celebration.