A Smart Cool Down Companion for Children
Capstone Project, Master of Human-Computer Interaction + Design.
Complete a holistic design process to develop a solution for your chosen problem space.
Ami a is a therapeutic toy and Cool Down Companion for children. It includes a mobile application for parental control and customization and a Voice User Interface (VUI) within the device. Ami utilizes natural language and adaptive algorithms to converse with and guide children through activities to help them verbalize feelings, learn calming techniques, and practice creative self-expression for healthy management of emotions.
- Primary and Secondary Research, Research Evaluation and Final Report
- Critique and Iterative Design Concepts
- Low & High fidelity Prototypes; (VUI), Interactive Mobile Application, and Physical Model
- Prototype Testing and Evaluation, Usability Testing and Design Iteration
- Design Specification, Poster, Final Presentation (10 min.) and Product Video (2 min.)
Product Demo Video
After identifying our topic area we began conducting research to build empathy and gain understanding into our problem space. The final months were dedicated to ideation, prototyping and testing of our design.
RESEarch: the Home
Our formative research including a Survey of over 150 parents, introduced us to common areas of concern families experience within the home. We held interviews with 7 Subject matter experts with expertise from Family Psychology to Interpersonal Communication and conducted research sessions with 12 parents to discuss their daily interactions.
We learned about a range of topics but a primary area of concern was parent-child conflict.
Zones of Conflict
We narrowed our focus to the most commonly seen types of conflict; routine conflict and behavioral conflict. Each with a distinct escalation and resolution trajectory.
We mapped specific conflicts to a Conflict Zone Diagram we developed to assist in visualizing resolution techniques that were successful and unsuccessful and help us to identify patterns and potential design opportunities.
- The Escalation Zone was not a natural or appropriate time for intervention via technology
- In The Resolution Zone parents felt strongly that they didn’t need facilitation to effectively speak with their child.
- The Cool Down Zone, or, the time between active conflict and resolution, there was potential for improvement.
Why Cool Down ?
We found that some variation of 'cool down' time was present in one way or another in most of the conflicts we analyzed, however, when a cool down was intentionally and purposefully engaged, the time to conflict-resolution was shorter. It was clear that this was a valuable but potentially underused technique. We also saw that parents especially, seemed to benefit from this because of their mature ability to calm and self-soothe, where young children had not yet developed these skills.
How might we encourage
a more productive cool down period for young children after conflicts?
After multiple critiques and iterations based on feedback received during prototype testing and role-play usability tests with parents and children, we developed our final designs.
The system has 2 specific components. The physical device is controlled via either the parental app or use of a predetermined 'wake word'. The physical device is designed to be approachable and non threatening for young children.
The Voice User Interface has 4 modes. These modes are Narrative, Calming, Creative and Energizing.
Each modes contains prompts intended to achieve
3 Primary Goals
How Does the VUI Work
Firstly, Ami learns each child's voice through 'Get to Know Ami' interactions during on-boarding. These serve to ensure accurate voice recognition as well as rapport building with the child.
The VUI is designed to understand a diverse range of responses, keywords, synonyms and similar phrases. Ami captures verbal inputs and initiates appropriate activities based on responses.
Ami communicates content in a variety of different ways to ensure that each conversation is unique and organic. Because young children speak in brief phrases we’ve designed Ami to structure prompts in yes-or-no binary choice format.
Ami will not interpret the conflict or suggest a resolution, rather, the focus is on helping children externalize their emotions. In this way, when parent and child reunite, both can be in a better headspace and ready for constructive conversation.
The mobile, companion application provides parents with initiation and customization capabilities for Ami.
Though the functionality in the scope of our project is quite simple and straight forward, we imagine many possibilities for more complex interactions and integration with other existing technologies in future iterations.
User Flow Diagram
Hero Flow Diagram
This figure details the primary use case of the product. The scenario begins immediately after a conflict ensues and a parent activates the Ami device for their child to use via the mobile app.
When motion detection senses the presence of the child, interaction begins. The following is a natural language conversation between the device VUI and the child. Prompts delivered by the VUI only are provided to the parent through the app. The parent can conclude interaction at any point.