New Deal Design uses AI to create Spot toy to encourage kids to be in the moment


by Rima Sabina Aouf, Dezeen, June 24,2019

 Studio New Deal Design has invented an Artificial intelligence-equipped toy to fight the “distraction economy” by nurturing children’s attention spans.

Called Spot, the toy is geared at learning and discovery. It functions primarily as a handheld scanner that kids can point at an object around them — think a flower or a bird — to hear it talk back. Using its AI software, Spot recognizes the object and voices a little monologue from it, incorporating information to suit children ages five to nine. There’s also a secondary function that comes into play at bedtime, when Spot uses its in-built projector to present a story woven around the day’s discoveries.

Spot has a sophisticated, only faintly anthropomorphized look, with its 3D camera and projector embedded in an “eagerly tilted” head. The choice of materials was inspired by traditional kids’ building blocks. When Spot recognizes an object that it’s pointed towards, it blinks and vibrates to signal it has locked on. Its head also locks into place to counter any fidgeting.

The studio’s expertise is reflected in Spot, which the studio describes as presenting a “new paradigm” in digital interaction design that moves towards “doing” rather than just “observing”.

“By encouraging focus skills, Spot can battle the ‘distraction economy’ at a crucial stage of development,” said New Deal Design. “Being ‘present’ and ‘in-the-moment’ is a skill that can be taught, and studies find that it nurtures a sense of ‘mindfulness’ that incites self-confidence and self-awareness.”

Spot is a great example of a way that curiosity and storytelling can be put together. It is a product that would be easy to use by both older adults and younger kids. From a functional standpoint, it is easy to hold and doesn’t require any reading. Those with visual impairments could still use it. The toy is playful without screaming juvenile, and I imagine it could be used help seniors with Alzheimer’s remember the activities they did that day.