Geo is a conceptual, voice- and touch-controlled, interactive globe that teaches geography skills to children ages 6-10. It utilizes a voice user interface and guides the child to interact with the globe surface to learn geographical names and features.
Not only did we need to research and understand the complexities of voice user interface (VUI) but we also needed to understand learning styles and developmental levels in order to create an age appropriate, educational toy.
We wanted to use the best known educational techniques at an age-appropriate level to target an under-appreciated skill set to children in an engaging and innovative way.
We also wanted to work within ethical parameters to engage children without using psychological guilt or raising privacy concerns.
Geography is a skill under taught in American schools. In 2014, only 27% of 8th graders were proficient in geography nationwide. Geography is an essential body of knowledge that strengthens global awareness, spatial skills, and curiosity about the unknown.
Children ages 6-10 are the perfect age range to start solidifying geography skills! Erikson’s Psychological Stages of Development calls this age range “School Age” and children in this stage are developing competence in intellectual, physical and social skills. Knowledge, learning, and cooperation are important areas to strengthen at this time. This age range is able to implement practice in order to improve skills and beginning at age 6-7, children can understand commands with three separate instructions. Geo will encourage appropriate psychological development for children in this stage.
Geo’s marketing and tone is adventurous and curiosity focused, giving families the message that geography knowledge increases a sense of belonging and place, spacial awareness, cultural empathy, and environmental stewardship. Geo’s primary market would be for families to have and use at home, with a secondary market for children to use at school in the classroom during free time. Geo’s price point would be around $100.
Geo is a friendly guide, who’s voice user interface gives heavy praise, is funny, and is not overly repetitive. The praise model promotes a growth (vs. fixed) mindset, focusing on the hard work of user, not how smart or inherently gifted they are. Geo is excited, upbeat and energetic, cultivating a sense of adventure and exploration. Geo features a female voice, reflecting a statistical preference for female voices in instructional settings within our user demographic.
Our style was largely influenced by mid-century travel posters. We wanted to evoke a sense of adventure and excitement with a simple but bright and friendly color palette, playful type and simple, engaging illustrations. We want Geo to be a friendlier, exciting, and more accessible globe.
I began with several logo possibilities that were heavily dependent on the imagery of a traditional globe. Since we want to challenge the associations people have with globes we ultimately decided to go forward with less representative work mark instead. The hand drawn type is imperfect, playful, accessible to young children. Additionally, the upward movement of the tail of the g is meant to inspire adventure and movement.
This mark would also allow the company to expand their product offering without requiring a rebrand.
In order to show Geo’s features clearly and quickly, we turned to an animated explainer video. While Kira focused on designing our website and the VUI user flow, I got to work creating assets and animating our video.
Once we had storyboarded the animation, I wrote a script and Kira recorded the audio.
I focused on the first half of the video which is more storytelling. We created our illustrator file as a large globe so we could rotate it off-camera of each scene. I relied heavily on the puppet tool and the 12 principles of animation to add anticipation and follow through to each rotation transitions.
Kira helped create some secondary elements and animated the second half of the video which highlighted the variety of features Geo offers. I then took her animation file and fine tuned it to make the two pieces a cohesive finished piece.
Geo’s build is a spherical touch surface similar to those developed by Puffer Fish Displays. It is a fully interactive touch screen for maximum detail. It utilizes internal projection and is 24” in diameter. It features a static sphere on base, and the touch surface allows for scrolling and zooming.
Each level Geo offers has both teaching and a testing modes, which are cued verbally by the user. In testing mode, the region lights up and the globe says the name, teaching it to the user. Geo teaches 3 items at a time and then changes to testing mode, calibrating up or down depending on the user’s accuracy of response. Geo stores responses to track progress. If the user doesn’t know, they can say “give me a hint” and Geo will light up two options to choose from.
Geo can also be utilized by multiple children in the same household or classroom. Users sign in by telling Geo their name, and Geo remembers their level of progress from stored data. Users can also play together in multi-player mode so siblings and classmates can use Geo simultaneously, even if they are working on different lessons. Geo takes data from established accounts to create varying difficulty levels tailored to each user.