Parent-child communication is an essential element in behavioral and character development in early childhood; however, parents may find it difficult to be aware of how they talk to their children. Through extensive field studies with experts and parents, we found that parents are more likely to experience communication conflict with preschool children (3-6 years old) on school mornings.
We designed WAKEY, a technology-based approach, consisting of a doll, iOS App (developed by Swift), and RFID reader, that helps parents use better communication strategies to teach preschool children to carryout their morning routines. Following the intervention with WAKEY, parents reported significantly reduced levels of frustration during morning routines and greater independent behavior by children. Furthermore, parents reported experiencing changes in their parenting attitudes and finding new insights into communication.
Award | Silver Award 2016 National Taiwan University Innovation Competition, Silver Award 2016 Ministry of Education Innovation & Creation Competition
Publication | In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing
Oct 2015 – Jul 2017
iOS app Developmer
Jane Yung-jen Hsu
01 | Preliminary Study
We conducted a field study with two experts at the preschool at National Taiwan University. Preschool teachers showed us the spatial layout and described children’s activities. Next, we deployed a questionnaire with parents who were willing to take part, enabling us to select target users (dual-income parents) for interview. Meanwhile, we observed children’s behavior while they played. As parents picked up their children, we also carried out a semi-structured interview and discovered problems relating to morning and evening schedules, when they get on well with their child, family activities on schooldays, and what the children were learning at preschool.
02 | In-depth Exploration
Phase two consisted of two parts. First, we used random sampling to create an online questionnaire asking parents about child-related morning stress. We also used this questionnaire to find out what kinds of songs and stories their children like, so that we could program them in our prototype system. The second part was to consult with experts on early child-hood development and family education and with occupational therapists in order to learn more about parent-child communication skills and the mental capacity of preschoolers. These consultations led us to develop a series of design considerations that would help WAKEY promote independent behavior.
STEP1 | The night before, parents use the text-to-speech function on the WAKEY app to arrange with their children what tasks they have to do and what actions are involved. Parents can input text on their iPad and the app will vocalize it to the child, for example saying, “When WAKEY Rabbit wakes you up, can you get up straightaway?”
STEP2 | The next morning, the WAKEY toy wakes the child with a voice or music alarm that plays until they get up.
STEP3 | The child picks up the WAKEY toy and uses the RFID tags to trigger task actions which guides the child through a series of tasks such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast. The WAKEY toy is like a friend that accompanies the child as they perform their morning routine.
Intended to check the home scenario and the feasibility of the technology by simulating the necessary functions: speaking, playing music, vibrating, displaying emotions, and sensing RFID tags.
Prototype 2 was used to assess the system’s usability and to determine if the toy was the right size and had the appropriate functions were appropriate. In addition, we created a static interface for iPads and conducted a user study to determine ease of use. We also made a video to simulate preschool children using the stuffed toy to sense RFID tags and carry out morning tasks.
01 | Stuffed Animal Design
According to cognitive development research, children enter the phase of symbolic play between the ages of three and six, when they like to imitate adults and symbolic objects. Thus, we developed a robot in the form of a huggable stuffed rabbit that would be perceived as a cute and friendly interactive partner.
02 | Anthropomorphic Robot Design
The WAKEY toy’s expressive behavior creates social interaction with children：
Voice : A high-pitched female voice has a positive influence on the robot’s appeal and the child’s overall enjoyment , so we decided to use the ITRI TTS Web service3 to create a female cartoon-style voice.
Motions：Motions gives the social expressivity, so we installed motors with 3D printing frames inside the rabbit’s ears.
Emotion：Appropriate emotional expression by the robot also has a positive influence on users, so the WAKEY toy has one red LED in each cheek that signifies “blushing” and gives children visual feedback.
03 | RFID Tag Design
The use of symbols to represent a series of abstract events can strengthen sequential memory and language comprehension. The WAKEY system uses two kinds of RFID tags:
Event tags： Represents one event, such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, and packing a bag. The tags act as triggers: when the RFID reader senses an event tag, the WAKEY toy carries out the predefined actions, such as saying something.
Interactive tags： “Rewards” for when the child has completed the agreed task. Since the RFID reader is in the robot’s mouth area and the interactive tags are decorated with colorful wool to resemble cookies, children can pretend they are feeding their WAKEY toy.
04 | Sandwich Approach to Communication
Our communication strategy is based on the “sandwich” approach to communication (i.e. sandwich-ing negative feedback with positive feedback), which is re-purposed as three different steps: Empathizing, Eliciting aPromise, and Encouragement.
The WAKEY system was installed on an iPad-Air. The purpose of our system is simply to provide parents with suggested phrasings that have been established by experts. By clicking on a phrase, the user can modify it or insert anew one. When the phrase is submitted, the system checks whether it is appropriate; if not, the system explains why it is inappropriate and suggests an alternative. Parents can use the text-to-speech function, make theWAKEY toy play music, or use some other way to interact with the child in real-time.
05 | Scheduling Arrangement
The WAKEY scheduling module allows parents to set the next day’s schedule in advance and determine which tasks theWAKEY toy will help the child to carry out the next morning. The process is as follows：
- The scheduling page - the white area shows past scheduling, while the blue area is for future scheduling.
- If the user clicks on the white area, the block displays the time spent on an event.
- In the blue area, parents can drag different events onto the timeline.
- The event editing page - modify the start and end times of events and drag different actions to the timeline
- Once the actions have been successfully edited, the gray icon turns orange.
We conducted a one-week study with five families in order to investigate our hypotheses that WAKEY can lead to better communication, better communication leads to more efficient routines, more efficient routines lead to less stress. As during the baseline phase, parents recorded what happened each day, and we kept in touch by email. At the end of the intervention phase, we conducted interviews with parents and had them fill out the questionnaire.
Improved child’s level of independence
“My child used to find lots of different ways to waste time. But with the rabbit, she’s become more independent and willing to complete her morning tasks.”
Reducing parental frustration
“When she found out the rabbit could speak, my kid thought it was amazing and she even asked me to make the rabbit talk more.”
Parents improve communication skills
“Using WAKEY made me realize that talking to kids like a ‘friend’ was a good way of communicating with them: they listen to me more.”
Enriching dialogue between parents and children
“With WAKEY, I can express my ideas and interact with my child.I like this design. And it improved many of my child’s daily tasks.”