From CS 160 Fall 2010
Our project proposal was an extensible children's soundboard, an educational supplement to standard children's books. Many children's books with built in soundboards are expensive and work for that particular book only; our original goal was to have a soundboard app that could be linked to any paper copy chlidren's book by arrangement of appropriate sounds (counting, colors, etc). Unfortunately, interviews conducted over the last weekend highlighted the infeasibility of a soundboard smartphone as a distinct object from the book (unwieldy and so forth), so our proposal has evolved to that of a standardized children's book interfce with an integrated soundboard, for tablets.
Our target audience is parents with small children, who want a educational tool to teach their kids basic vocabulary and word associations. We therefore share similarities with various educational books and programs already out on the Android market and iPad/iPhone app store.
- This is an animated interactive slideshow application that has various fixed points of interactivity. The target audience is parents of toddlers to preschool age children, with basic page-turning functionality and a voice pronunciation of various objects on screen. I believe the functionality was limited by the iPhone centered design, without room for distinct UI elements (a page turn arrow) or an interactive soundboard.
- There are a wide variety of iPhone books made by this developer, all of which have the same target audience and identical functionality - an automatic narrated slideshow. The interactivity is limited only to changing pages and changing the narration voice, something I believe limits both the effective lifetime of the application and the appeal it has to young children. These apps are advertised as 'books in the pocket', and no more - an underutilization of the mobile platform.
- To be quite honest, the apps by this developer have nearly identical target, scope, functionality, and limitations as the last. These apps have won awards from the app store, but the appeal is due to the well crafted content as the UI is just a basic slideshow.
- In addition to the functionality of the prior batch of apps, these series of children's books highlight words as they are pronounced, and are slideshows otherwise. A criticism of having an entire narrated story on a small device is that it seems to cut out the parent entirely from the reading process - the child is a slightly active participant while the phone reads to him, which from my interview is undesirable in comparison to having the parent read with the child. This is a limitation of the platform, as a phone is rarely designed to be used by multiple people simultaneously.
- This is a specialized application designed to work within a customized child's book; when slotted into the book, the phone screen changes based on what page the book is on. The book itself merely provides context for what is on the screen - the objects on the screen can be interacted with in various ways. The target audience here is likely for pre-reading children. This app is one of the more unique I've seen, with the large book interface allowing a parent to have a more active role in the media experience; the limitation, naturally, is the requirement of that particular physical book to link the phone with in order to provide a meaningful contextual connection.
- These series of Dr. Seuss apps have on-tap object pronunciation and use swipe gestures to change pages, along with the standard narration. The navigation seems unintuitive, however; using gestures may not be the best interface design when working with young children, and the lack of delineated navigation elements seems to impair the usability of the application.
- This children's application is a more interactive story - likely meant for children at least 4 or 5. The story progresses by having the user figure out which element on each page to push based on the clues from the narrative and context. I believe this is a good utilization of the smartphone platform, although the design goal significantly differs (meant to be used by the child alone). The UI in this case is integrated into the functionality of the program as part of the puzzle sequence.
- This application is an audiobook repository, sorted into menu categories. I do not believe this app is particularly well designed, nor is it any better than simply loading audiobook tracks into an mp3 player, as the functionality is quite sparse. Although presumably targetted at young children, the interface is barebones and uninviting, meaning the intended user is likely the parent, with the child a passive, captive audience for the pre-recorded audiobook track.
- I actually remember reading the Peter Rabbit stories as a 4 or 5 year old on an IBM PS/2, as a narrated slideshow. This app is targetted towards that same child, but other than a hidden button that colors in a black and white picture and the mobility of the platform, it provides nothing more than the storybook I read on a beige box in the 90s.
- The app in question is the featured 'iTouchiLearn' app. This app, targetted towards toddlers/preschoolers, has a sequence of short animations linked to various words describing the activity in the animation ('jump' linked to a man jumping). The interactivity is limited to selecting which animation the user would like to play. This is most similar to the original brainstorm idea we had of a basic soundboard unattached to a context, but it seems rather limited in action - without any sort of context, it would seem the child could easily lose interest.
Several of these applications have won awards for being little more than narrated slideshows. The conclusion, therefore, is that the quality of the app is immensely predicated on the actual content and not simply the packaging. Recreating Seuss and Peter Rabbit on the iPhone is trivial, however, and there seems to not be any sort of push for making these apps specifically tailored for the mobile platform. Our idea takes the content of these otherwise quite simple apps and wraps them in a way that improves the interactivity of the application (providing on-touch context for each page as well as a persistent contextual soundboard), as well as possibly standardizing an interface for all of these childrens books.