While working at Tomorrow Lab, one of my first projects was helping create a childrens AI toy. Rather than building just another smart speaker, the aim was to create a interactive learning companion, whom children could learn with through play. With it, children can ask questions, listen to stories, and play educational games.
Extensive research and teardowns of existing smart toys was conducted to inform our design. Our key insights from this was to try and create a contained experience rather than a design that directs children to an ipad or screen, and to avoid the “robosapien” pitfall that many designs fell into.
Early on, it was agreed that key to its success would be the toy having a strong character design. To kickstart this, I fleshed out a number of distinct character paths.
Once a robot-theme was chosen, the character design was iterated through illustrations and foam mockups. At each stage, feedback from the client and focus groups was incorporated and fed into future iterations.
This proccess was repeated until the design could be conveyed in detailed illustrator flats for production CAD.
Interaction design In order to step beyond a generic smart speaker, we wanted communication beyond just sound. This was achieved through integrating a linear LED strip for “eyes”. Through a capacative touch strip fitted below it, children can use it to play visual games. Likewise, for games that require a circular display like telling the time, children can be directed to the capacative LED buttons around its pressable belly button.
This was also used to convey the toys state, and give it an emotional presence. To aid this, I visualised what information could be conveyed this way, as well as designing the eyes appearance.
I also contributed to the loudspeaker chamber development. For a range of potential loudspeakers, an optimally sized resonance chamber was prototyped and their performance compared qualititatively. This ensured selection of the most appropriate and economical speaker to produce a high quality audio.
A series of prototypes for the toy were showcased at NY Toy Fair 2018, and the product will go on sale later this year.