Obo is a social robot developed with the intention of teaching young children better social skills. It is the result of a 10 week class: Human Computer Interaction. My team consisted of myself, Henry Tran, Eric Flatt, and Joe Parker.
“It is crucial for children to form genuine connections in order to develop healthy social skills, but physical, mental and emotional disabilities can make it extremely difficult”
7% of children have diagnosed anxiety
3% of children have diagnosed depression
Less than 60% of these children are treated for these diagnoses
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My team examined many current solutions to better understand the problem space. We found that many solutions focus on parents rather than children, are too expensive, or meant for a higher age range than we were targeting. We used these observations to craft our mission statement:
As we found it difficult to get in touch with children, we decided for our interviews to focus instead on those who would work with our target audience. We interviewed 3 key groups of people:
“I think [childhood] is when kids either develop the confidence or the insecurity and disconnectedness that will stay with them for years to come”
Primary Insight: It is very important that our product gives the child opportunities to form real connections rather than “human-like relationships”
“I wish parents would realize the importance of practicing daily at home with their child. The speech issue will correct so much faster if there is practice and reinforcement at home”
Primary Insight: It is crucial to consider the parents’ role in the development of their child.
“Children really like being able to tell that someone is truly interested and invested in them”
Primary Insight: Any human interaction that our product includes needs to feel genuine and personalized for each child.
We distributed journal kits to 7 different parents, reaching 12 individual kids. Inside each kit was a pen, a notebook, and 5 questions that the parent was to ask the child at the end of each day for 3 day in a row. We sorted and processed the data from these notebooks at the end of the 3 days to better understand our target audience. Here are some examples of the children we reached:
Braxton’s ADHD makes it difficult for him to even sit long enough to discuss his journal entry with his mom.
Primary Insight: Because of short attention spans, our product needs to be constantly engaging.
Finds it “extremely scary” to approach other girls her age, but she wants to be able to do it more often.
Primary Insight: Some kids favor a small amount of close friends, and some prefer many friends.
Always fights with other kids at his school, but gets along well with his siblings at home.
Primary Insight: Some children that have difficulties interacting with kids their age get along great with siblings.
After developing our personas based on the people we researched, we decided to make a journey of what Zack’s typical trip to the park might look like. From there, we agreed upon stages where we felt we could create a product to intervene, and marked those activities with a lightbulb.
During the affinitizing stage, we sorted the data points we gathered through research and generated opportunity statements. From there, we brainstormed concepts that answered the opportunity statements and voted on the best ones.
This is Obo! He’s a social robot designed for children to help overcome barriers to social interaction. In addition to being an artificially intelligent friend for the child, Obo also features social games that gradually increase social cooperation to ease kids into playing with their peers.
I modeled, 3D printed, and programmed a prototype of Obo to take to a park. With their parents’ permission, six children interacted with the interface as we asked questions and took notes. The insights we gathered helped inform our final UI.
After user testing, we revisited the UI of the robot. We wanted to take the emphasis away from the words in the UI, and shift the focus to the visuals. For example, in the friends list, we decided to use large profile icons with smaller names, since many children could not or would not actually read the names.