21. januar 2008

Sniff - Playful RFID

By Sara Johanssons
Playful toy for blind children.

Rfid offers the oppertunity to interact on a distance. The research revealed that it should be Socially Engaging and Physically Activating. And it should not be too smart, so that it replaces other sences, wich leaves no imagination for the child.

Making prototypes early in the project is the most important thing for a successful project. Wich is a commom lesson everyone that has made similar projects have learned. So Tangible and Physical interfaces need physical prototypes very early in the project.

Sniff is meant to be a stimulational tool (training the sensens) and not a aid for solving tasks. The magic is in the unexpected so the low tech and soft object is a fitting contrast to the high tech interior. That it is unconnected adds to the magic. It looks to be intelligent.

Sniff has to main functions: Moods/Emotions and Memory game/Melody Game. It has vibration and sound feedback. There is two types of rfid tags; marbles and stickers (with relief). The tags triggers emotions when sniffed; happy, sad, scared and sneezing amongst others. They work really well. But the design of sounds and vibrations seems to be very important.

The spatial placement of readable objects has to be concistent because the tags need to be within 4-6 cm to be read. So how blind kids can find objects are essential to success.

A practical note; the prototype was and is prone to breakdowns. So it is obviously not fit for production, but for controlled testing it seems to work fine. How to commercialize the technology is a question to me. Maybe there is possibilities within Norway to make a small batch of circuit cards with the required components for a not so high price.


Note: The Matrix like cable on the back of Sniff's head is due to the prototype's batterypack malfunction. So it is currently powered by USB.

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