K!NNECTED

An educational and eye-friendly physical toy designed for kids of 2-5

Project from 2020 Microsoft NYUSH Thinkathon

CLICK or SCROLL on the pictures below to check out the full project!

Video Demo


Background Research

Stay-at-home order
At the end of March, 42 states and more cities and counties were under stay-at-home orders — a total of 308 million people, or 94% of the US population. Researchers surveyed nearly 2000 children in second through sixth grade both in Wuhan, China and in a city about 50 miles away. After an average of 34 days under the lockdown, 23% of the kids reported symptoms of depression. 19% reported symptoms of anxiety.Until April 26th, some 99% of the world’s children are living with restrictions on movement because of Covid-19. 60% live in countries under full or partial coronavirus lockdowns. Until June 4th, 190 countries have imposed countrywide school closures, affecting more than 1.6 billion children and youth.

Covid-19 / Quarantine innovation
Of the total 894 innovations recorded in the Covid-19 Innovation Hub, the category of education contains the second most innovations, and 22.22% of innovations are related to education, enabling community and connection.

How can we help the kids?

Questionnaire for parents

Through a questionnaire survey of dozens of parents of preschool children, we have collected the quarantine behavior and routine of kids under 6 years old as well as the doubts and needs of major consumers in the preschool children’s toy market.

Questionnaire Results

- During Covid-19 quarantine time, 84% of kids mainly with physical toys at home.
- During Covid-19 quarantine time, almost 60% of parents discover that their kids are eager to play with their peers.
- For kids’ entertainment at home, 66% of parents are generally satisfied but wish to provide more ways of entertainment, while 74% think that the current entertainment involves too many electronic screens and 44% think that it decreases the interaction with others.

- For types of toys kids prefer in their daily lives, 59% of parents indicate that creation toys like Lego, Building Blocks and Plasticine are their children’s favorite, 56% choose educational toys such as Puzzles and Card Games, followed by 34% of role-playing toys including Barbie Dolls, Toy Kitchen and Dress-up Game.
- During Covid-19 quarantine time, almost 60% of parents discover that their kids are eager to play with their peers.
- For functionality, 94% of parents think that a good toy should be beneficial to kids’ intellectual and emotional development, and 78% think toys should have multiple ways to play in order to keep kids’ long-term interest.
- As for toy’s material, toys made of wood/bamboo are the highest option parents choose, gaining 72% of votes.
- In terms of the future development of kids’ toys, 81% of parents choose to pay more attention to toy’s safety, and 75% of parents choose to increase kids’ interaction with peers and have more innovative content.

Personas & User Journey Map

Concluded from the interview feedbacks we received from several parents and their kids, we created the personas for parent group and children group:


We pictured a likely scenario for the process of "Purchasing New Toys" (For Parents) and "Receiving New Toys" (For Kids), and drew a User Journey Map for this process.

Competitor Analysis

We researched on three most-mentioned entertainment products kids use: LEGO, Tinkamo and Apple.

By evaluating these products from four aspects: Interactivity, Playability, Price and Eye-friendliness; we aim to learn from the strengths of them and keep in mind what to avoid when designing our own solution.

So what are we making?

Inspiration & Prototyping

We referenced to current intelligent kids' physical toys like Tinkamo and Lego Mindstorms. Then we generated some features to include in our own kids' toy design:

- Narrow down the age range to 2-5/3-5, for which kids can communicate better.
- There should be no screen/non-necessary screen for the toy.
- Best without a digital screen or app.
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Kids need to co-create/compete and win. (design good game system)
- Consider different kinds of blocks such as sound blocks…
- Mother Block (the special one): more complex, embedded Android system, Bluetooth/Wifi, reads RFID tags on children blocks. 
- Design a game system for the toy. 
- Engagement should be virtualizing play-date.
- Use wood/natural materials (parents prefer).Realize audio synchronization.

With these perspectives considered, we summarized the description for our product:

- An electronic mat (80cm*120cm): To replace electronic screens, embedded LED, sound box and vibration units.
- Several electronic blocks (size TBD) Embedded LED to present different colors(magnet?)
- Comes with an app downloaded in parents’ phone: Match the phone with the mat and blocks. Connect with friends’ setChoose/Switch games

The Board

The App

Gameplay Design

We ideated 6 gameplay experiences that would work on our blocks:

Then we narrowed down to the two games that are most intriguing and intuitive for young kids:

Color Mixing

Color mixing can be a single/dual game. Each block represents one unique color with an extra eraser block. When the blocks are layered together, the color of the grid will be the mixed color of all the blocks above it. The eraser block would wipe the color of the grid where it is placed on. When in dual game mode, kids work together and could make changes to any painted/unpainted grids by layering blocks over it.

Let There Be Light

When two kids are playing together, one kid’s blocks play the role of mirror to reflect the light of the torch, while another kid’s blocks are the shovel to clean out the path of the light to get it through. There are also two extra blocks that one acts as the torch and another is the receiver the light should finally reach.

UX/Product Designs