"Move-O-Matic" was a project at Jefferson University, in a class that combines UX and Industrial Design students (Fall 2017). The brief is as follows:
"Design and develop a toy for children between 4-8 years of age. Using qualitative and quantitative research methods, analyze and select a product category and consumer group. Research appropriate developmental milestones and incorporate it in the design for the target demographic. The toy must have a physical form and incorporate a digital interface."
I worked with two other UX Designers on this project, Antonia and Ben.
Antonia is a former dance major and wanted to design a toy that incorporated movement. Her initial concept was Body Draw, which is a toy that would let kids draw on a screen wearing wrist-bands. We set out to conduct research and validate the demand for this type of toy.
Finding kids to interview was challenging since no one in our group had access to kids in our target demographic of 6-8 years old. I caught a big break when I met Julia Yosen, who is the Camp Director at the Handwork Studio. The Handwork Studio is a fashion camp that teaches kids tactile activities such as needle arts and machine sewing.
Based on my interview with Julia, I discovered the following:
• Kids love building things and are happy about what they make.
• They want to share their creations and feel a sense of ownership over them.
• The kids like to role-play scenarios using their inventions.
• Kids have a preference for vibrant colors.
• Secretive learning is a crucial component in the Handwork Studio's lesson plans.
Antonia interviewed a dance teacher and gained some valuable information as well. With Body Draw, I was unsure if kids would want to get up and start dancing when testing our toy. She assured me that kids such as the ones in these dance classes had bundles of energy. With our findings, we compiled a quick affinity diagram.
Ben checked out some books at the library that dealt with movement-based activities for kids. Some insights we found in these books involved teaching nonverbal communication and the art of cooperation through these activities.
We experimented with different ways to prototype our idea and see if it was fun, such as Google Drawings.
Switching to Shadows
We found that Google Drawings was an awkward way to test our toy design. There wasn't enough tactile feedback, and drawing was challenging.
Antonia showed me a video of the Pilobolus Dance Company, who put on dance performances using their silhouettes to create different shapes. We came up with an idea of using a projector and shadows to provide more tactile feedback in our prototyping stage.
Prototyping Round 2
I rented a projector for our group to test new ways to invent movement-based activities that had more of a sense of challenge and followed a storyline.
Designing the Games
The shadows gave us a stronger direction on how we could create more movement-based activities with better gameplay. We settled on a storyline about going on a mission to space. Ben sketched some ideas for different mini-games the kids could play in an outer space theme.
Building the Prototype
I used Axure to build the space-themed mini-games with the script Ben wrote as inspiration. I had to create the games in such a way that I was in control of the interactions while creating the illusion that the games were fully functional.
Focus Group Session
Julia was kind enough to coordinate a focus group for us at the Handwork Studio with some of her most enthusiastic students. I was worried going into it that the kids wouldn't find the games fun, or that we'd encounter technical hang-ups. It turned out Antonia's hypothesis on kids being bundles of energy was correct—they had a blast playing with the toy.
Their favorite mini-game was Dodge the Asteroids. The kids all jumped in and began playing together, which clued us in on the importance of multiplayer. Multiplayer also adds an educational component through teaching the art of cooperation and develops those nonverbal communication skills.
Buy a Feature
Overall, the focus group was a resounding success. Even after the kids found out I was controlling the games, they were still asking to play as I packed up the projector. Ben also sketched a bunch of potential features on notecards and let the kids vote on their favorite ones, which made the feedback process more interactive.
Changing the Name
Since the direction of our toy veered slightly, we thought a new name would be appropriate since Body Draw wasn't totally representative of the product anymore. I thought "Move-O-Matic" had a better ring to it and sounded more playful.
My group and I set out to design a toy that would keep kids active and had a secretive learning component, which I believe we accomplished.
During our "Buy-a-Feature" session, the kids said they didn't want to jump in a game because they thought jumping was boring. As evidenced in the video, not only were they jumping the entire time, but they were having a ton of fun doing it. By them not being consciously aware of this, I can safely say the Move-O-Matic has the necessary components for secretive learning.
The kids also weren't shy in voicing their preference for more vibrant colors, so Antonia whipped up a colorful mockup of what the Move-O-Matic could look like: