UX / Branding
Build a physical smart toy for children that uses a conversational interface to teach a subject.
After doing research into how children learn and the strengths and capabilities of a conversational interface we decided to design a toy that helps 4 to 7 year olds learn to read.
A smart toy with a conversational interface is already designed to take in speech or spoken commands and give appropriate responses. Learning to read felt like the most natural subject to teach with this kind of interface.
We decided on the demographic of 4 to 7 because the majority of what students are being taught at this age is how to read. After 7 you switch from learning to read, to reading to learn. Your reading aptitude greatly enhances how well you are able to learn new subjects like math and science. Studies show that children that fall behind in reading exponentially fall behind in all subjects after 7 years. This felt like the most logical age range to focus our efforts on.
In our research into how children learn we discovered approaches that worked and pit falls to avoid. One approach what worked well was keeping the level of difficulty of what you're teaching within the “Zone of Proximal Development”. ZPD refers to an optimal difficulty level specific to each student. That level is just above what a student knows, but not going so far that the subject becomes frustrating and the student gives up.
A pitfall we discovered in our research was game-afication. Although good for engagement, game-afication was not a good tactic for learning. Most students get good at playing the game or winning the game and focus on that instead of advancing in the subject that the game is meant to teach.
Our main goal in designing Book Buddy was to create a smart toy that helped children learn to read. Help is the important word in that statement. Book Buddy is not meant to be a replacement for a skilled teacher, or to act as proxy for actual human interaction. A one to one student to teacher ratio and repeated practice are the only educational approaches known to consistently work for all young students.
Knowing that, we decided to design Book Buddy as a tool to make practicing reading more fun and engaging. Additionally Book Buddy would have the ability to help a new reader when they encountered a challenge, such as a word they couldn’t pronounce or define.
We started with an in depth interview with Matt Westoff of Enlearn, an educational software development company. Along with additional supporting research, this set the basis for our educational approach. In two white boarding sessions we worked out the conversational interface flow starting from turning on Book Buddy to the beginning of a reading session.
Switching gears we worked on developing the Book Buddy ecosystem. We fleshed out a MoSCoW chart for each of our perceived users: child, parent, teacher and book publisher. Wanting to get a jump on our promotional animation video, we wrote the script and laid out the story boards.
The next step was establishing what Book Buddy looks like. Using information from our MoSCow white boarding session we established shape, color, button placement and hardware features.
After establishing Book Buddy’s visuals, the next step was logo design and branding. Using BB’s rounded features and bright colors, it was a straight forward approach to friendly approachable asset visuals.
Heading back to the whiteboard, we fleshed out the second half of our conversational flow, starting from the beginning of a reading session through how Book Buddy helps the reader with a challenge point, like sounding out a word they don’t know.
The final push involved laying out the landing page, and building out a design system for future asset creation, organizing and creating graphics of the conversational flow charts and lots and lots of animating.
Book buddy explainer video.
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Willy Eddy © 2018
Willy Eddy © 2018