Quantifying my feelings around food

For this week’s assignment I decided to start working on an idea that I would like to develop for the final project of the course, start understanding how to manipulate the data visualization and the importance of collecting meaningful data in order to self track myself and make behavioral changes according to the knowledge acquired by doing this exercise.

I consider myself as a healthy person, who loves exercising and eating healthy food, but at the same time I enjoy exploring different restaurants, new food and experiencing places throw food. I have noticed that since I moved to NY, and obviously changed my lifestyle, it is more difficult to dedicate time to exercise and cook healthy meals which have been affecting my emotional health.

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Toy Analysis: Strider Bikes

Strider is a brand of balance bike: a type of learner's bicycle that has no pedals but is instead propelled by the rider pushing their feet along the ground, designed to help young children learn to balance and steer. I decided to analyze this toy because of its flexibility of use, the ability to be used by children of different ages and also the accessibility for children with disabilities.

The toy encourages and teaches kids how to balance so that eventually they could transition to using regular bikes with more security. The use of Strider bikes is also encouraged for kids to play outdoors and do physical activities instead of being trapped inside a house or an apartment playing with video games.

strider2.jpg

The creator came up with the idea when he wanted to teach his 2 y/o son how to ride a bike and he wasn’t able to do it because the “kids bicycles” in the market didn’t behave in a way that suited the children needs. He then decided to design a more basic balance bicycle that would help little kids how to balance first and then eventually be able to transition to pedal bikes. He describes the concept as follows: "I wanted to really just strip it down to its essence. Two wheels, a seat, and a handlebar. That's it." 
-Ryan McFarland.

Kids playing with Strider bikes

Kids playing with Strider bikes

The advertisement around the Strider balance bike goes beyond just the physical product, they create a fun and engaging activity around the use of the bikes. Strider organizes “Strider Camps” and “Strider Races” across the country and even internationally. As a quick anecdote, when living in Costa Rica I saw a lot of kids engaging in this kind of activities, I was training in a running team and my coach’s daughter (4 y/o at that moment) was starting to use the Striker bike, her dad as an athlete wanted to encourage her to so sports as early as possible so he enrolled her in some competitions to get her started. An interesting interaction about the way that the brand tries to engage kids and parents with their products is by creating camps and competitions, and they use social media to reach out for kids.

In Costa Rica they created a Facebook competition, where the parents uploaded a picture of their kids using the Strider bikes and the one with more likes would win a free enrollment in the Strider Camp, of course I believe that this whole concept is highly monetized, and for the third world scenario where I was living, this might not benefit all the population, however they were giving options such as social media competitions and even scholarships for the kids to get engaged in learning and competing.

The experience that I saw from my coach is that he was able to encourage his daughter to start practicing a competitive sport since a very young age and at the same time engaging family and friends with her early development. The fact that they had to collect likes gave the Strider bike a lot of exposure and probably encouraged other parents to buy the bike for their kids and sign them up for start competing. In the pictures below you can see in the left, Valentina holding hands with Christian her father, who is finishing a marathon and trying to give her the example of regularly exercising, and then in the right is Valentina during one of her multiple Strider competitions in Costa Rica.

Strider Bikes have different products for different age ranges and also they offer products for children with special needs such as Down Syndrome, generating a big range of products that can be used by a large portion of the infant population. The inclusiveness and accessibility of the Strider Bikes is well advertised throw their media channels and they make sure to dedicate a special tab in their website for testimonials.

Categorization of Strider products

Categorization of Strider products

The emphasis that is put into the Testimonials section of the website is very interesting because they make sure that as a company (at least try) to create a product that is more accessible and at the same time they use this concept as a way of advertising the product and the values of the company. The changes or modifications in the shape of the bikes are not noticeable at simple sight which for me is a key characteristic of an “accessible” toy, specially because children with special needs can use essentially the same bike as their friends which I believe gives them a sense of independency and acceptance from others. Sometimes when a technology in general tries to be more accessible ends up making very obvious morphologic changes which end up affecting in a very negative way the intention of children to want to interact with it because they are afraid of being pushed away by other kids, therefore I believe Strider bikes is making a good effort for empowering kids with special needs.

Special Needs Testimonials

Special Needs Testimonials

The Strider Education Foundation is another initiative from the brand to be more inclusive with kids who’s parents have low income, which as I mentioned before, it might be a roadblock, specially for the camps and the races. The fact that they give away scholarships and they implement trainings at public schools gives them a broader scope to where their product can be positioned and enjoyed by kids. They also have the possibility within their own website for general users to “Adopt a school” and in that way be able to generate more impact through their products and programs. They also give the user the possibility to adopt and entire District, School or do a general donation.

"Adopt a school" program

"Adopt a school" program

The website also has a separate page for Strider Education, focused in two different emphasis: Parents and Educators. Their focus is on the fact that they first need to learn how to teach their kids specially because the main purpose of Strider is to eventually teach them how to ride regular bicycles and motorcycles, therefore the confidence that is built during the first years of interacting ith a balance bike is fundamental. There is also a factor of fear from parents specially if they have very small kids and they want to introduce them to the concept of the balance bike, this is where the education comes in very handy and it gains importance.

Learning Tools for parents and educators

Learning Tools for parents and educators

In conclusion I believe that the overall concept and use of the Strider Bikes is built with a very good intention that is being appropriately used around he world, I tried to search for different or bad uses of the bike and I didn’t find any shocking result so my assumption is that this is a fairly safe and interactive toy that encourage kids to learn how to balance, compete and have fun with their parents and friends, it also motivates them to go outdoors and stay away from technology and do physical activity, which in my opinion is very important for the early stages of development for children.

MIDI controller: Flexible notes

My goal for this week was to explore the capabilities of the MIDI protocol by altering a pre generated melody. I decided to go with this approach mainly because I lack knowledge in music theory and I wanted to focus my time on the technical implementation and the design of the tangible interactions.

My original idea was to create a controller for children to manipulate some known melodies, my moving and touching different and interesting textures. I also wanted to play with the geometry of the enclosure in order to work with something different than a rectangle.

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Hacking Cozmo: Teaching kids to be kind

For this week’s assignment we had to develop an activity for the Cozmo AI toy. I worked with Arnab in order to create an experience for children that is educational and the same time engaging and fun. We started brainstorming ideas about topics that we wanted to cackle with the interaction . At the end we decided to start working around the subject of teaching kids how to be nice to machines, and therefore how to be kind to people around them (family and friends).

Brainstorm and ideation

Brainstorm and ideation

The second phase was to define a user persona, in this case we decided to work with a kid in a complicated situation: Simon is an only child who is used to have his parents attention, however he is about to have a little sister. His patience and the way he treats people are changing because of the changes that are happening in his family and we would like to create a game that teaches Simon how to be kind to people around him.

We defined his goals, frustrations and also his personality and what motivates him, all of this in order to understand the state of mind and the needs that we wanted to to cover with the game.

As designers we also defined our main goals to achieve for the kids: To incentive positive social relationships and to balance the need to attain power and control.

User persona

User persona

After defining the user and the activity it was time to frame the interaction and decide which functionalities from Cozmo to use in order to generate the impact that we originally designed. We started with a very basic idea of analyzing the sentiment in the way that kids requested Cozmo to do certain actions. If the sentiment was kind then Cozmo would start doing it but if he detected that the sentiment was mad or rude, then he wouldn’t do the interaction and he would instead teach them how to ask for it in a kinder way. The kids then would have another opportunity to try and make the action if they learned the lesson of asking kindly.

The original idea was to use the sentiment detection however as we started prototyping we couldn’t find that building block in the Cognimates extension and therefore we decided to check if the kid typed the word “Please” as a way of checking if the sentiment was kind or not.

Logic and Information Architecture

Logic and Information Architecture

The next phase was to start building the logic in Cognimates. We found it to be very satisfying and easy to use (once we were able to install and connect the app, connect to the phone and the computer, install the SDK through terminal and then install the Cognimates extension). We inmediatly realized that the setup process took way longer than what we expected and this is a highly technical process that woudn’t allow a lot of parents to do it for their kids to start building their own games with Cognimates.

We started the program by making Cozmo ask for the kid’s name and then say Hello, followed by the kid’s name. The next block was to tell the kid that he could pick up a block if the kid asked nicely. Then we stablished an “If” “else” condition in order to check if the response included the word “Please”.

Something interesting happened during the process, we noticed that the recognition of the word was case sensitive which took us a while to debug, and once we understood what was happening we could continue building the program. For future iterations we would have to consider giving more options to check if the word “Please” was written (even if the case was different or if it was maybe misspelled?).

Programming in Cognimates

Programming in Cognimates

Prototyping and Testing

Prototyping and Testing

The final result is an interaction where Cozmo greets the kid after asking for their name and then teaches them how to ask for things in a kind and respectful way. We believe that this kind of approaches can be of a very good use for personas like Simon, who are going throw changes in their families and need to learn how to continue being kind, share their toys and his parents attention and also how to be patient toward technology and therefore to people.

Quantifying Data: A week in Compliments

For this week’s assignment we had to quantify a specific aspect of our lives, I decided to work with Anna Gudason by counting the amount of compliments that we received during the week, the reason why we did this is because we believe but a lot of time we don’t share what we are thinking, specifically in my case, if I see someone wearing a nice outfit I try to say something nice, however I don’t always do it, or if someone is beating him or herself up because something went wrong with an assignment, I try to give support however I don’t tend to compliment their good characteristics. By quantifying the compliments that we received we figured it will also be interesting to know how many we give during the week and be able to create a visual comparison.

A very important aspect was the collection of the data, I started by creating a spreadsheet in Google docs so that I would always have access both in my computer and in my phone, in order to be able to track more efficiently and hopefully don’t forget to log any of the compliments. The structure of the data collected was, I had a separate sheet for each day, and I had two different columns with “Compliments given” vs “Compliments received”.

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Disobedient Electronics: Breather 129

For this week’s assignment we were asked to create a Disobedient Electronic. We started the process by deciding on a subject to treat. After doing some research we decided to work with data related to mental health awareness, the original idea was to use the ESP23 wifi capability to pull data from an online source. We started browsing from some statistics and we found the amount of deaths by suicide in the US which was very alarming for us.

According to the American Foundation for suicide prevention, on average, there are 129 suicides per day. In order to be able to work with this data we started treating it as suicides per day, and then we converted that number in the time that statistically passes between two deaths by suicide.

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An evocative Object from my childhood

I want to start by explaining a little bit my background. I grew up in Costa Rica in a very small town called Grecia. My parents own a bakery and I have one older brother. I had a very peaceful and happy childhood and I am very grateful for the way that my parents raced me, however I would like to point out some characteristics that are important for explaining the “object” that I have chosen.

Growing up in a Latin American country meant that the gender roles where extremely marked, and specially in my house since we are all Catholics and my parents believe in separating the roles of women and men. I remember that I used to play with dolls and Barbies a lot and I used to love it. My brother used to have a lot of fun toys (he still has his room full with actions figures, comics and board games) and I liked playing with him with little cars and doing races, I don’t remember however that my parents ever encouraged me to play with my brother’s toys.

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Time Piece: Productivity Clock

For this week’s assignment I decided to create a device for the user to set the amount of time that they want to spend in certain task and then be able to track the progress of the time elapsed and improve their productivity. This clock is based on the Pomodoro methodology that states that the brain focuses better in short periods of time with timed rest periods.

The original idea was to use a neopixel ring in order to light up the LEDs according to the rotation of the encoder and allow the user to press the button in order to start the timer. I started by sketching the basic functionalities and understanding how to divide the time in the circle. I decided to do a 60 minute timer with a 12 LED ring, which meant that each light would express 5 minutes.

Sketch and ideation

Sketch and ideation

Understanding time

Understanding time

The next phase was to assemble all the components separately. I have never used encoder nor neopixels which was a big challenge, however I wanted to use this opportunity to learn how to connect them and how to make them work according to the time.

I was able to light up the LED according to the movement of the encoder in the correct portions of time, and also set a time when the user clicks the button according to the LED that are on and the numbers in the enclosure.

The desired user interaction was to be able to tun off the lights according to the time elapsed however this was not possible for me to finish for this assignment. I would like to finalize the logic and refine the code so that it could work properly and give the user a visual and maybe audible indication with a buzzer on when the time has passed.

Final Clock Design

Final Clock Design

This project was a very interesting experience because I learnt how to implement many different technologies in one same project without having experience using them. It definitely challenged me to start understanding the code more in depth and also to understand the examples that I found online and be able to code my own version with the functionalities that I wanted for my design.

The last step was to build an enclosure, which I decided to do with white cardboard. I laser cut the wholes for both the encoder and the neo pixels and I covered them with a diffuser in order to make the LED look less bright and contribute to the aesthetics of the clock.

The final result is a productivity clock that lights up the LED according to the user selection and displays on the screen the amount of time that is selected, the timer is capable of keeping track of the time that has passed and the minutes are displaying also in the console.

Critical Object: Anti Vax is Whack

For the first class assignment we had to develop a Critical Object. We decided to start the ideation process with an open brainstorm in which each member of the team (3) would choose 5 topics that she cared about and would write it in a post it and paste it on the wall.

Once the three of us wrote the post its we took some time to re group them into areas of interest, one of the most prominent topics was related to health (physical and mental) according to the interests of the group. We wanted to make sure that we were all working in a topic that passionate us so that we could have a better result.

Brainstorming and ideation

Brainstorming and ideation

After a long group talk we decided to focus on the reappearance of illnesses (such as Polio) due to the lack of vaccination given to kids. At that point we were aware that the topic could change while we developed the ideas, however we would like to try to stick to a similar approach.

The next phase was ideation and sketching, we sticked to the post it format since it showed good results in the first phase of the project. We allowed ourselves to freely come up with ideas about how to frame the problem that we stated in the same place.

Sketching and ideation

Sketching and ideation

After the first round of the ideation process and having thought about experimenting with fluids and mechanical structures, we decided that we wanted to work on a Dunk Tank to represent the amount of kids that are not being vaccinated and how that growing number of unprotected population will have an effect on vulnerable people with different conditions and weak immune system .

The last phase of the ideation process consisted on determining how to create a dunk tank with the use of an Arduino, a servomotor and some structural materials.

Mechanism and materials

Mechanism and materials

Once we defined the functionalities and the way the object was going to interact with the user we started the production process. The following is the description of the object: Dunk Tank that has a button that triggers a servomotor, every time a user press a button it would add +1 to the counter until it reaches three pushes then that is when the servo will rotate 80 degrees to drop the figure that is going to be on the seat.

We decided to work with balsa wood and some scrap pine wood for the structure, the figure was created with paper and the choice to make it more abstract was based on the fact that we wanted it to be identified as a human figure, however not as an specific person, but more as a group of the population that is vulnerable and will be affected by the decisions of parents who decide not to vaccinate their kids.

Prototyping and coding the functionalities

Prototyping and coding the functionalities

Arduino wiring for prototyping

Arduino wiring for prototyping

With the solved functionality we decided to document the project at ITP and recruit some users to help us push the button so that we could communicate effectively the idea and the meaning of our Critical Object. During the design process it was interesting to notice that we depended a lot on a video with audio or text in order to explain what our project is about, however we believe that for future assignments we would like to explore the possibility of creating an object that will speak by itself and it will not depend on an explanation.

Final Setup

Final Setup

Dunk Tank

The user interaction consist in pushing a button once, the figure in the seat will only fall until a number of user have already pushed the button. We decided to create three different figures with variable sizes and proportions to represent different groups of the population in risk, such as kids and older adults.

The final result is a visual representation of the consequences of affecting the Herd Immunity protection that the most vulnerable sections of the population suffers when parents decide not to vaccinate their children.

Herd immunity is what happens when a community has a high immunization rate, usually 90% or more, which effectively prevents the spread of a disease. Herd immunity protects those who are the most vulnerable, like  children who are too young to be vaccinated and people with compromised immune systems who cannot receive vaccines, like people who have received chemotherapy.

Every drop in herd immunity--even a small one--puts the community and especially the most vulnerable members at risk for contracting the disease. This can lead to serious illness and death for these individuals.

Every choice not to vaccinate a healthy child contributes to a drop in herd immunity. 

This project was developed as a project for the Critical Objects class in collaboration with Cara Neel and Alizarin Waissberg.