With technology seeping into the lives of children at an alarming rate, the impact it has on a child’s social and emotional competency is one of the most concerning and debated issue for parents and educators today.
The project began with an interest in flipping this debate on its head by exploring ways of using technology in engaging and playful ways to help children become self-aware and more emotionally present.
Casting a wider net, the larger goal is to bring the transformation within the classroom. With more self-aware children, I believe the class has the potential to address bigger challenges of inclusivity and empathy.
Designed for 6-8 year old children, ÜPP’s family of whimsical characters uses the gentle power of smiles to nurture a shared experience of empathy, kindness, and compassion in the classroom.
Each child begins the year with a character that collects smiles from its surroundings. Every caught smile is visualized with a cloud that slowly floats upwards serving as an abstract representation of the mood and morale of the students. The rising and settling of the clouds encourage students to invest in their social relationships. Through a companion app, the teachers receive a detailed analysis of the inclusion within the classroom which helps them understand the class dynamics.
ÜPP uses its core technology (smile recognition and machine learning) in a non-obtrusive yet playful manner which features in the 3D characters the children wear. Once a smile is recognised by the machine, it sends a signal via bluetooth to the cloud jar, where the corresponding cloud rises a certain height with the help of a pulley attached to a motor.
Through prototyping sessions, we found that this interaction when multiplied across the class, has a powerful effect on the conversations the children began to have with their peers and families. We heard words (such as sorry, include, bullying, sad, happy, help) from children which is a first step in the journey ÜPP is on.
With this project, ÜPP reminds us to take the time to share a smile and be mindful of those around us.