2022 Summer, Smart Toy, User Experience Design, Electronics
Duration: 6 Months
Jigo is a smart toy, including the digital part and the virtual part.
The digital part combines a physical smart toy and interactive creativity games to provide a playful experience for children's user groups, encouraging them to create and explore using multiple senses.
The virtual part provides a mobile-based application for parents' user groups, inviting them to participate in the edutainment experience and witness their children's sensory growth.
As a designer, I always wonder, other than talents and gifts, what influences everybody's preferences toward one or multiple fields, and how people start to build ideas of abstract concepts such as color and sound. Also, what can I do to influence and enhance this process?
In this solo passion-driven project, I conducted Jigo based on white paper research, interviews, analyses, design, and iterations. Proving and enhancing my target user groups' edutainment experience step by step.
Jigo integrates industrial design, interaction design, and interface design to help children enhance their visual and auditory sensory growth by creating opportunities for collaboration, learning, and creativity while playing with smart toys and providing parents with access to participate in their children's playful experiences, witnessing their growth.
White Paper Research: Academic Research
I did white paper research on pediatrics and preschool learning; three key takeaways helped me decide which specific age of user groups to focus on in this project.
The research shows that the perfect time for children's brain development is zero to six years old. By age six, the brain is 90% of its adult size.
However, six years is quite an extended period. I wanted to focus more on certain ages because that can help me produce more target products and solutions.
To move forward, I researched the period for children to develop cognition and build impressions about the colors, which are three to five years old. At the age of three, the accuracy for children to say the proper name of a color is 50%, and by turning six years old, the accuracy becomes 90%.
I also researched hearing development. There are two golden periods for children to build their cognition about sounds: zero to six months old and two to four years old. The development at zero to six months old is more verbal; children start to talk based on what they hear. And age two to four the best time for children to begin learning music knowledge.
In conclusion, I found the overlapped period during these three dimensions and targeted my user group to children aged three to four.
White Paper Research: Market Research
Three outlooks from the paper “Smart Toys Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report,” indicate a promising future for smart toy industry development, which gave me more confidence in using smart toys as the media for my design.
1. Convenient Online Stores Increasing Awareness and Uptake of Smart Toys
2. The global smart toys market is projected to be driven by a rise in demand for the Internet of toys and an increase in technology-friendly users.
3. The global smart toys market was valued at over US$ 12.4 Bn in 2020 and is to expand at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 18.3% from 2021 to 2031
Observation & Interview
My initial plan was to interview the children. But during the actual interview, I realized that asking children questions is not helpful. Unlike adults, children’s answers are more spontaneous, which makes them hard to be quantified or qualified. So I changed the direction from interviewing to observation.
I got my interviewees' basic information during the observation, including their names, genders, ages, learning statuses, characters, and interests. What kind of cartoon characters do they like? What is their favorite toy so far? What's their favorite color, and how do they interact with their toys?
Another thing I found important during this interview was previously. I only thought about interviewing children and totally ignored the fact that parents are the actual consumers who pay for smart toys. Hence, their wants and needs are equally important. So I interviewed the parents to learn more about their motivations, frustrations, and daily activities.
I came up with several insights based on the observations and interviews.
Children love toys that can make sound and light and also expect to receive interactive feedback from the toy. Besides, toys related to puzzle-solving and creativity are trendy.
And parents expected to provide their kids with toys that can help improve their concentration and bring some fundamental preschool knowledge. At the same time, parents hope they can also participate in toy playing, witnessing and recording the growth of their children.
How might I come up with an edutainment solution to meet the needs of both users (children) and consumers (parents)?
Competitive Product Research
I only had a vague idea of what I could do at the beginning of my conceptualization phase, so I did benchmark research. I wanted to get some inspiration from the already existing products and learn about how they enhance the sensory development process for children.
I researched the best-selling interactive toys and sorted them into categories to get inspiration for the solution. I also reached out to a senior designer in this field, asked him for advice on the direction I wanted to explore, and did research based on his advice.
Among them, all Three competitors fit my concept: Yoto, Osmo, and Cosmo; they are all very successful, smart toys that work for children's cognition.
These products are combinations of physical toys and digital applications; The physical parts aim to serve the children, and the virtual parts are commonly used by parents, work to maintain and assist the physical device. The concept of using two parts to sever for different user groups in one product perfectly solves my problem.
Color, sound, physical interaction, and digital interaction are the four critical elements of my design. Based on the research on competitors, I figured out that I could create a physical smart toy design to connect sound and color and provide a playful experience for children. At the same time, combining the physical toy with a mobile app for parents to obtain educational information about sensory growth and to participate in children's play, exploration, and learning.
I came up with many ideations with rough sketches in the brainstorming process. After considering the feasibility and costs, I chose the Jigo.
Based on the insights and the findings from academic research, I designed three interactive methods of the physical toy set.
After pressing a cube for the first time, the cube continues to emit sound and light. After the second press of this cube, the cube stops emitting light and sound.
This interaction aims to give the child an initial understanding of single colors and sounds.
Two and more cubes.
More than two cubes and be connected by a magnetics terminal. Each cube emits light and sound following the order that it joins the sequence. The purpose of this interaction is to encourage the child to experiment with the matching of colors and sounds.
Cubes and the base
Placing the cubs on the base can turn on the recording function on the Jigsaw application. In this interaction, children can use the base as a canvas and place different cubes as pixels and notes on the base to create patterns and new sounds. Parents can record the entire creative process on their phones using the Jigsaw application.
Mobile Application Wireframing
Based on the insights, the digital part is mainly for parents to participate in the playful experience and maintain the toy device. I designed four main functions for this design iteration: Onboarding, Status, Recording, and Content.
In this part, users need to provide an account's email address and phone number, as well as basic information about the toy user (the child). The app will adjust the cube's settings and provide relevant preschool education information based on the child's age.
In this part, users can see the usage and the physical toy status, including but not limited to setting, battery, and connection. Depending on the child's age, Jigsaw recommends different color and sound packages. Parents can download these packages.
Recording & Context
In the Recording part, parents will follow the tutorial instructions to complete the connection between the physical toy and the mobile app. After finishing it, parents can record their child's playing process. The recording will be saved as a video and sound file. Parents can edit the video and sound and store the final file in the recording archive. In the Context part, parents can see the early education knowledge about different topics.
UI Design First Iteration
After completing the user flow, I designed the first version of the user interfaces and invited some users to test them. The feedback results of the first version were not very positive. 75% of users felt that the visual style of the interface had no connection with the physical toy, and 50% of users said the user flow is vague and lack of indications for users to learn how to use them.
UI Mood Board
Based on user feedback, I researched the interface's visual style and found that the Neumorphism style would fit my expectations for Jigo's mobile interface design. I chose this style because it can get a 3D effect to the screen-based interface without actually building 3D models and add uniformity to the whole product, especially the details, like the buttons, diffusions, and matte materials, which can quickly remind users of the physical toy.
UI Design Second Iteration
On this page, users(parents) can see the usage of the physical toy, including battery status, connection status, and settings, and download the color and sound packages.
On this page, Jigo will recommend different levels of color packages depending on the user's age (children). The levels are Junior, Intermediate and Advanced.
On this page, users (parents) can adjust the saturation of the colors recommended by Jigo and download the package.
On this page, users (parents) can adjust the volume of the sounds recommended by Jigo. and download the package.
On this page, users (parents) can see the number of creations made by their children and the details of each piece and can open a new creation record.
On this page, users (parents) can record the whole process of the children's creation, and 3D AR hands simulate the children's creative movement to add fun to the recording process.
On this page, users (parents) can choose to save, name, edit, and share the recording.
On this page, users (parents) can edit the recording.
Mood Board For Physical Product
I wanted the physical toy to be soft, smooth, round, and simple in appearance, so I did some research and made this mood board.
I drew many detailed sketches of the shapes in the first phase of the draft, exploring forms that would provide multiple ways to interact with each other. I got inspiration from origami, and used a collapsible structure to achieve physical interaction.
Final Appearance Design
I did many tests and tried to find the optimal solution among the dimensions to be considered in the 3D modeling phase. After user testing, I built the model of Jigo in Rhino and used Keyshot to render it.
After clarifying the outlook of the physical part, I dived into the structure design, 3D printed the shell and made it functional using Arduino and electronic implements.
This prototype can implement three basic interactive methods of Jigo.
(The current prototype is not yet able to implement Bluetooth connection or Zigbee connection, this will be the next phase of project development.)
By the end of 2022, Jigo has undergone 14 user tests and evaluations by two senior designers.
Now, I look back on this project. If I had more time, I would like to explore more about the boundaries of the interaction of children's playful experience and their behaviors. Hence, it could add more interactive ways to this project.
Plus, I also want to consider the WCAG standards more. Cause based on users' feedback, some designs in my second iteration could be more user-friendly, especially the contrast ratio of the interfaces and the usability.
Due to the epidemic, I did not find a factory to manufacture my final design solution. However, after this project phase ended, I created an interactive art installation to realize my design idea in another way.