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 improve healthy emotional self-regulation.
Primary and Secondary Research, Research Evaluation & Report, Low & High fidelity Prototypes; (VUI), Interactive Mobile Application, and Physical Model. Critique and Iterative Design Concepts, Prototype & Usability Testing, Design Specification, Product Poster, Presentation (10 min.) and Demo Video (2 min.)
Product Demo Video
RESEarch: the Home
With our general topic are identified; The Home; we set off to understand how relationships affected home life. We conducted an anonymous introductory survey of over 150 parents to learn about common issues. This data supported additional findings we would later identify.
We created research guides based on our secondary research findings and held interviews with 7 Subject matter experts with expertise from Family Psychology to Interpersonal Communication. Finally we conducted research sessions with 12 parents to discuss their daily interactions, communication styles, relationships and home life.
The most common concern we heard about
was parent-child conflict.
Zones of Conflict
We narrowed our focus to 2 distinct types of conflict between parents and children; routine and behavioral conflict. Each of these has a distinct escalation and resolution trajectory.
We mapped various stories of conflicts to a Conflict Zone Diagram we developed to assist in visualizing the efficacy of various resolution techniques and their use within families.
User desires were clear, however we needed to validate several design principles to test our assumptions in this delicate problem space.
We took these to parent participants to gather their feedback.
- 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 version of a 'cool down' was present in some of the conflicts we saw. It became clear that when a 'cool down' was intentionally and purposefully engaged, the time to conflict-resolution was shorter than without. We saw this as 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 2+ months of research followed by 3 months of critique, prototyping, testing and iterating, we developed our final designs.
The Ami system has 2 components.
The Mobile App, for parental control and customization of Ami, the physical device.
Ami, the Physical Device and Voice User Interface for young children to engage with.
The Voice User Interface has 4 modes. These modes are Narrative, Calming, Creative and Energizing.
Each mode 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.
The functionality in the scope of our project is quite straight forward and focused primarily on emotional regulation, we imagine many additional possibilities for more complex interactions and integration with existing technologies in the future.
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.
Given the opportunity we would love to test and evaluate how Ami really works in the home. With multiple in home trials we can determine the level of desirability, feasibility and viability of our design.
How do users interact with the device? Does Ami provide desired results? What implications does it's use have on family life?
What are the long and short-term effects of use?
We believe we will continue to see technology showing up in the lives of children at increasingly younger ages. We feel that a mindful introduction in a way that Ami can provide may be healthy path. Our hope is to create a space where technology benefits humans without overstepping family boundaries.