Documented by: Skarpalezou Anna
Partner: Kaley Arnof
1.PROJECT NAME: Dino In Mino
2. PROJECT STATEMENT OF PURPOSE (150-250 words):
As mentioned in our presentation, “Our project is an interactive riddle game that asks the user to discover the Dino’s favourite melody using auditory and tactile clues”. The chief purpose of our project was to create a toy that familiarizes toddlers and young children with musical melodies. Musical awareness and consciousness is incredibly important in the child development, affecting both neurological functioning and human social communication. We chose to create a toy that would target child musical literacy, disguised in a huggable child-friendly packaging. By gamifying children’s first musical interaction we can create positive connotations and encourage them to delve into music, through an expression of creativity and individuality. It will also be encouraging puzzle-solving skills, allowing the children to associate finding the right meaning with the reward of a pleasant vibrating sensation, usually integrated in children’s’ toys due to the calming element it provides. Our toy can also assist children with behavioral disorders such as ADHD, by engaging multiple of their senses.
3. LITERATURE AND ART, PERSPECTIVES AND CONTEXTS:
Our project, through the creative process was faced with significant changes in all aspects, from design to purpose of use. Similarly, we were inspired by a variety of outside sources that changed as we changed the product. However, there were a few projects that we found to be quite influencial to the actual result.
One of the most important readings that we came across was the one named “Kinetics & Robots by Stephen Wilson”, more specifically we got a lot of our inspiration from a project called “Feral Robot Dogs”, 2006 by Natialie Jeremijenko. The artist had created an interactive robotic pet, intended to help fight against urban pollution. The goal was to focus public discourse on a societal problem of significance. We thought that the idea of an interactive pet was brilliant, but we decided to focus our project on a very different societal issue, that of child musical literacy and exposure. Since the toy would be interacting with children we decided to give it a more ‘huggable’ interface, appearing more friendly.
Another very important reading that we came across that truly shaped our idea was Tigoe’s Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits (and misses),in particular 2 of the projects. The first one was Remote Hugs and Dolls and Pets, for which Tigoe’s main concerns had to do with interface not being able to communicate the sense of warmth that is necessary. The argument rang true to us so we decided to focus on creating an interface that is user phrase, huggable and hearty. It became very clear through our user testing session that that goal had been successfully met as most of our users were eager to play with the toy and give it a hug. The second project that we found incredibly influential was one named Dolls and Pets, that aimed at creating interactive dolls that behave like us. Even though we didn’t want to give our project any human like characteristics, we did include the vibrating feature as a reward for the successful completion of the puzzle, imitating the purring of a cat.
One of the Artists we came across and found quite interesting was Nobumichi Tosa. In the video ‘Nobumichi Tosa on making nonsense machines’, he showcased some of the machines he had created that produce sound and consecutively musicality, but were far from the conventional look of musical instruments. Watching this video truly brought our project together, making us think about how we could incorporate sounds and musical play into our project.
4. PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
The idea we had for the project changed a lot throughout the process of creation of the physical product. Here is an analysis of the development of our idea:
Initially, we wanted to create a project that would give the users an opportunity to understand the experience of having a mental illness. Potentially we were going to create 4 relevant projects about different mental illnesses, such as depression, ADHD and eating disorders. Each of the 4 would give a closer insight to the user of the experience of having the disease and require the successful completion of 4 puzzles. With each successful completion, a letter would light up on our pre installed board of LEDs, finallys spelling out HOPE. However after discussing our idea with some of the Learning Assistant, we decided to focus on one of the 4 projects and develop that one, leaving the other 3 ideas for later due to time constraints.
At this point, we were aiming to create an educational and socially conscious yet fun project that raises awareness about anxiety attacks. The idea was that the users would have to deal with someone undergoing an anxiety attack and would have to figure a way to help them out. We thought of representing it with a vibrating sensor covered by some fabric, to showcase that even if on the surface is not the surface it is not exactly clear, there is a lot happening within.
However we decided to opt for a toy that would shake, due to its more human-like nature, allowing the user to sympathise more easily. The toy from the start of the interaction would be shaking, until the use gave it a hug with extended duration to calm it down. At this stage we took the product to the user testing session. We were going to be giving out this brochure to inform our audience
The consensus from the user testing was clear, most of the users described getting enjoyment from the vibration, they did not get any connotations to stress. We decided to therefore switch the project up, having the toy only start to vibrate when hugged, to provide the user with the calming sensation of the vibration. However, at this stage, the project still seemed to lack both the interaction and socially conscious design that we intended, so we wanted to continue pushing the idea
Therefore we started thinking about how we could make our toy a bit more interactive. A good way we decided would be to add a puzzle solving feature for the user, so that the exchange of feedback from the machine to the user would lead to the reward of the pleasant vibration. We considered adding a game of speed, but that still lacked on the social consciousness part.
We started thinking about how effective the gamification our toy would provide could be in areas such as education, especially for young children and toddlers, who would be able to learn through play.
Through extensive research, it became clear that there is one area of education that is crucial in child development, both on a mental as well as an intellectual level, that of music. We decided therefore to incorporate musicality into our toy, as a means to expose children to the world of music in a familiar and fun context. We decided that for educational purposes the puzzle aspect of the toy was also very useful.
Putting the music and the riddle like aspect of the toy together, we were able to create a music instrument disguised as a toy. We created a mini-piano of 4 notes, those of the C major chord, c,e,g,C. To play each of the notes the user would simply have to squeeze one of the toy’s limbs.
We found that the very first thing our users tend to do when they see our product is give it a hug. Therefore, such hug would now trigger a melody of 7 notes. The user would then have to figure out a way to recreate the melody by pressing the toys limbs. For the successful completion of the puzzle, the users would have to play 7 notes in the right order, namely [c,e,g,C,g,e,c]. Depending of course on the age range that we would be targeting, we would be able to manipulate the difficulty, but this was the format of our project for exhibition purposes. If the user made a mistake, a ‘defeat’ sound would be produced. With the successful completion of the puzzle, along with a congratulatory sound, the toy would start vibrating, providing a calming sensation for the user.
5. PROJECT SIGNIFICANCE:
We like to think that our users would benefit from the use of the toy both in the long as well as the short term. Specifically, the riddle like aspect of the toy, makes the interaction fun and engaging for the users, while providing a sense of accomplishment with the successful completion of the puzzle. It also provides a calming sensation for the user after they have ‘won’, through the vibration. The later feature can be especially beneficial in calming children down. In the long term, we hope that our toy would be able to stimulate our users’ interest in music and encourage them to delve into it more. We hope that the project, if used on a wider scale, would be able to increase child musical literacy rates, by constituting their first step into the art. Our value is mainly targeted towards toddlers and young children, who enjoy the company of stuffed animals. At this age, kids can enjoy pushing buttons, drooling on tech equipment, and throwing our toy in corners while not damaging it. We feel it has special value to this group, because it lets these children produce music, packaged in the familiar context of the toy. We think our toy could serve as an introductory instrument/sound producing device, before the children get to use actual musical instruments.
6. PROJECT DESIGN & PRODUCTION:
After deciding on creating an interactive huggable toy, we decided on using a ready made stuffed animal, since we needed it to be sturdy and able to take all the squeezes that were coming its way. We decided to use the vibrating motors to give out the appropriate sensation we were going for, but because the toy was relatively big, we had to use multiple ones. Accordingly one of the most significant difficulties we would face was that of keeping all the connections intact. Because the connections were so many and because the toy was to be squeezed, the cables would just come out of the arduino and the project would not work. In order to resolve this problem, we decided to solder all the connections that could potentially be soldered together, to minimise the only connections that could be removed during interaction, those to the arduino. Ideally we could avoid the arduino all together, by using a smaller motherboard and soldering all connections on to it, but for our current purposes, we used our arduino. After soldering all the connections together we run into the issue of having too many cables. We decided that we wanted our toy to have no visible wiring, including the power cable, so we chose to fit all the cables, the arduino and the battery power source in a handmade backpack that we added to the toy. This seemed to be our best option, as it didn’t affect the toy like look of our project, and could still be soft and squishy, after we added the filling.
During the user testing we faced some minor issues with our pressure sensor, mainly because we had set the triggering pressure too high. There was also the issue that the sensor would move within the toy, making the sensor at times more pressure sensitive than others. We tried to solve that by sawing the sensor onto the back of the toy, the part of the toy that first comes into direct contact with the user. However, the pressure sensor we were using was very sensitive and broke. We decided that in the final version of the toy, a pressure sensor was not necessary, as we didnt need analog values, just something that would start the melody. We ended up resorting on using a hand made button instead, using conducting tape and cardboard.Another technical issue we faced was that the buzzer was not loud enough. If there was more time, we could use an amplifier, or consider relocating the actual piece of hardware so that the sound doesn’t have to travel internally though the toy.
Our goal was to create a fun and engaging, interactive toy that would blend together elements of puzzle and riddle solving with music. We like to consider ourselves successful in doing so, as verified by the feedback of various classmates and the head of our school’s music department. We have thought about adding more levels of difficulty to the toy, either by mixing up the melody every time, increasing its length or by increasing the number of notes one can play with the toy. Through this process I learned the importance of execution over mere exploration in thoughts, not only because of the plethora of problems one will be faced with and cannot in any way predict, but also because by having a ready made product and observing the user testing there is so much to be learned about what the product needs to be and how to get there.
We would truly be ecstatic if our project could in any way get a single child excited about music. It is so important to us that children nowadays are encourage to pursue such fields, without fear. Musical literacy and education is crucial in child development, both in proper neurological development for optimal intellectual capabilities as well as in developing optimal social skills. But above all we think that music play can lead to an overall happier childhood, one that can be achieved with our dinosaur pal!