A range of interactive teddies that warm up in response to being hugged, aimed at a 7-12 year olds. The product is an alternative to a hot water bottle but with additional functionality, such as the ability to control the temperature and to provide heat for longer.
The brief simply asked for a household product that explored the idea of 'active forms'. This can be thought of as a type of interaction design (see project description for more).
A key requirement was to incorporate metaphors into the product and also to consider rituals people have around the home, for instance the sequence of events required to make a cup of tea.
We researched domestic areas and I looked into household utilities:
Group brainstorming of possible interactions, rituals and target market.
One of my concepts uses the metaphor of striking a match to boost household heating. Blowing on the match would turn the heating down again:
Development of interactions with the metaphor of producing heat:
Further development of matchbox concept:
This was the concept we chose to take forward. It is a pillow that causes a bed to heat up when it is squeezed:
I looked into existing novel pillow shapes and identified reasons for their shape. For instance numerous ones were intended to be hugged to give a feeling of comfort.
We were keen to come up with a form for our pillow that indicated it was more than just a pillow or toy. I explored abstract forms and tried to find inspiration from things that give a warm, cosy feeling.
In this variation, I looked at the metaphor of adding fuel to a fire as an intuitive interaction for the user. Adding and removing 'logs' or a similar form to the bed would control the temperature of a heated blanket.
The group settled on abstract animal shapes for the form so the concept became a plush toy rather than a pillow because it was a closer fit for our user interactions.
Our product would heat up in response to the pressure of being hugged. We chose this interaction based on the link between being warm and being snuggled up somewhere comfortable. The egg shaped torso is a good shape to prompt hugging of the rabbit.
This visualisation of our concept shows the large ears on the rabbit intended to be held by a child when carrying it around. We found this was often how stuffed toys were held by our target market.
The toy would give off a soft glow from its body once it has become warm. The light would also be triggered by an external rise in temperature, behaving as an 'active form'. For example if placed in an already comfortably warm bed, the rabbit would glow to indicate this.
Other shapes were also developed and branded in a range called 'Active Farm'.
Squeezing the toy causes it to heat up, but we also wanted a way of cooling it down. The gesture of closing the eyelids turns the heating element off and allows the toy to be hugged without the temperature increasing.
A large scale model was designed and built to demonstrate this mechanism. I constructed a complete 'works-like' prototype encorporating a simple pressure switch, nichrome heating wire, the eyelid switch, LEDs and a power supply.
A rough 'looks-like' prototype was also fabricated:
The group designed packaging to fit the brand and I produced a card model of it:
Sample advertising material: