We wanted to create a tool that would help parents to educate their children, enhance empathy and reinforce positive values, while having a toy that would not bore kids.
We wanted to create the first interactive toy for kids able to display emotions through colors, able to act autonomously or be controlled by parents via a mobile app, in order to help kids in their emotional and social development. We wanted everything to be built using the new wave of the internet of things, and create a toy that kids will see as something more than than a toy, a friend that they will spend the nights with!
We had some goals in mind for the development of Purrpurino, which could benefit society in several ways:
· It would help parents reinforce good behaviours in their children. Parents can set Purrpurino's emotions, and Purrpurino will act depending of that state. For example if the toy is sick it will expect a kid to take care of him, and if it is playful it will expect the kid to play with him.
· It would help kids sleep at night, with dim lights that will keep company and help them stop being afraid of the dark!
· A system to help parents waking up their kids, gradually increasing Purrpurino's led brightness in the morning and using the stepper motor to make the kid wake up with a smile.
Purrpurino comes from a combination of different words - Purpurina (Spanish word for glitter), "Purr" (like the purring of cats) and the suffix -ino obviously comes from Arduino.
What it does
Purrpurino (purr-pur-ino) is a new plush toy that uses different sensors to interact with a kid, allowing them to learn from emotions and reinforce positive values. The way Purrpurino teaches about emotions is using different lights - which correspond to different moods that are triggered depending of the actions of the kid.
Purrpurino has 7 different states to display emotions: shy, awake, sleep, happy, sick, playful, angry/sad and has a lantern mode.
A parent or guardian can modify the mood of Purrpurino through the app to project emotions in Purrpurino.
How we built it
We used an Arduino 101 (Genuino 101 here in Europe) as the core brain of Purrpurino, and different sensors of the Grove Starter Kit.
Using the Arduino 101 was crucial because it made it easy for us to create an app to communicate an Android app with the board, using the board integrated Bluetooth.
The Grove Starter Kit Plus sensor set was a perfect fit as it had the main components that we needed to make Purrpurino come alive:
· Light Sensor : To control if it is dark and make Purrpurino go to sleep.
· 3 Axis Sensor : To know if Purrpurino is getting dizzy or if he is playing.
· Piezo Vibration Sensor : To track if someone is petting Purrpurino.
· Stepper Motor : To make the purr effect.
And from "standard" components not from the grove sensor kit we used :
· Push button : as a way to switch on / off lantern mode.
· ws2812b 5050 RGB Leds : to display the emotions and states of Purrpurino through led lights.
Instructions of use
Purrpurino starts in a shy state where he gets to know his new owner. His cheeks are blushed in this state and he needs to be petted to get used to the new owner. After some caresses, the light of Purrpurino will turn green while purring delightfully as a cat, as that indicates the happy state. Now the functions of Purrpurino can be showed.
The new owner can play with Purrpurino, shaking Purrpurino gently to have a good time, but if he gets shaken too much, he will become dizzy. Some petting will fix his dizziness and he will be happy again.
A parent or guardian can modify the mood status of Purrpurino through an app designed to do so. This way a parent can reinforce positive behaviours in their children or make them realise of a bad behaviour and teach them not to do so.
If Purrpurino get angry, his owner can caress him to make the rage go away.
Purrpurino can go to sleep when no light is detected, purring softly for a set of time that will allow the kid to sleep while feeling protected.
Purrpurino has a button in his right paw to enable "lantern mode" so no matter if he is sleeping you can use it to brighten the room.
Challenges we ran into
We had never created before a connected app using bluetooth with a hardware device and it took some days before we could send data between devices.
Plug-and-play hardware are not always easy to set up! We had some trouble with some parts of the hardware, that took us more time that expected to make it work properly. For example, the stepper motor was not working as what it was expected from the documented examples and it was a lot of trial and error to make the piezo vibration sensor to get the petting feeling that we wanted.
We had some trouble when we had to fill everything inside the plush toy, as the components are rigid and we were fitting in a soft space, that continuously was being pressed, which led frequently to malfunctions and cable disconnection when we were testing the "live" prototype.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We specially love the purr effect that you get when petting Purrpurino, as it reminds us of our cat.
We are really proud of having created a working prototype of a toy that could be used to play, educate, and promote good behaviour on kids, but above all we are really proud of having created a toy that our test kids LOVED!
What we learned
We have now a greater knowledge of Arduino and how to interact with different sensors, and we have learned how to communicate an Android app with an Arduino 101 board using Bluetooth!
We have also learnt that recording videos with kids is really hard and we can barely use some minutes from the hours of footage that we have with them.
What's next for Purrpurino
· Sound : Purrpurino right now is mute, adding sounds to empower emotions and states would be a really nice addon.
· Real Time Clock : We want to keep track of time so we can implement new functions, like knowing when Purrpurino should wake up in the morning or start going to sleep autonomously.
· In-app options - We want the parents or guardians to be able to set the wake up time or the time that Purrpurino should go to sleep.
· Power management : This part needs to be tested carefully as it is really important to have the less possible consumption to make Purrpurino last longer with a simple charge. We want to set Purrpurino in deep sleep mode when he is in the sleep state.
· Rechargeable battery : We need a way to charge Purrpurino easily and if possible without having to open the toy.
· More states and sensors : We will need to implement more ways to interact with Purrpurino, creating more states and adding more sensors to different parts of his body.
· Data, metrics and graphs : We can get some sleep patterns and get the analytics of how a kid uses Purrpurino to check data like when is the toy most used, if the kid uses it at night among other things!