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Helply

A task learning system that teaches children important life skills and fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Hero image: first image depicts a mother and her child looking at an iPad, screen of Helply interface is overlaid on top; second image depicts child wearing Helply wristband; third image shows a hand holding an iPhone, iPhone shows the Helply parent interface.

Background

The prompt given to us for this class project was to design for the home of the future. We were to imagine some sort of speculative future and create a design response for it.

Drawing inspiration from the situation we were in, we imagined a future in which remote working and remote schooling continue to be prevalent. We wanted to take a look at parents and guardians who were juggling work and taking care of their children in this pandemic environment.

Design Response

Video

Features

Onboarding + task Alignment

Together, at the beginning of the week, the parent and the child align on tasks they want to work on for that week along with the expectations and rewards associated with that task. Our goal with this is to increase the child's involvement in the decision-making process, encouraging responsibility along the way.

Customization

All the tasks, expectations, and rewards can be customized and adjusted allowing both the guardian and the child to work together on making an agreed-upon task. This customization also has the ability to accommodate the family's needs and available resources at any given time.

Scaffolding

On the first day of a new task, Helply recommends for the parent to do the activity with their child together. This provides a model for the child to follow. The goal with this is to scaffold the child's learning experience by providing them with a lot of support at first, then gradually decreasing the amount of support until they’re eventually able to complete the task independently.

Gamified Tasks

Once a task is agreed on, the child can begin their learning through a themed, story-driven game. In the story, the child has a companion that they will complete the adventure with. The tasks are centered around taking care of the companion, which helps the child develop a sense of responsibility and ownership over their tasks. The game helps the child prepare the task by guiding them through digital learning exercises related to the task.

If the child gets stuck, the game will offer support through in-game hints when their parent isn’t around. By practicing these tasks in a fun and safe environment, we aim to help the children build confidence around developing these new skills.

Wearable

After the child completes the game on the iPad, they then attempt the task in real life. This is when the wearable takes over and prompts the child to complete the task within a given timeframe through its voice assistant and haptic feedback features. After child attempts the task, LEDs on the watch will light up, prompting the child to rate how difficult they thought the task was. The wearable’s aim is to increase the parent’s reach through tech while also tracking perceived difficulty in the moment for both the guardian and the child to discuss problems and solutions at a later time.

Parent App

The guardian is then notified about their child's progress, either when an activity has started or when it has finished. In the guardians app, they can see a report of their child’s progress including the details of the storyline, which day they are on and how difficult the child reported the task to be when they performed it. In addition, the guardian can send their child words of affirmation to encourage their child throughout the day. Through this application we wanted to provide guardians with a way to view and stay in touch with their child as they progress through these activities, allowing them to be supportive from a distance, but also intervene when they child needs more guidance and support.

Debrief

At the end of the day, Helply will provide the guardian and the child discussion prompts to reflect on what the child did earlier in the day. Helply also provides hints, tips, and tricks for when the child attempts the task next time. Our goal is to encourage the child to talk about what they did that day, while also helping them develop problem solving skills.

Rewards

Finally at the end of the week, after all of the practice tasks have been completed, both the guardian and the child will sit down together and discuss the child's progress over the past week. Together, they will pick a reward that the child can buy with their in-game currency. These rewards are based on real items or activities they can do in their household and with their family members. These rewards are completely customizable, allowing both the guardian and the child to adjust based on interests and resources to accommodate changes in circumstances.

Research

Formative Research

Literature Review

With a general direction in mind, we conducted literature review to get a better understanding of the problem space. We looked at academic papers and news articles on how families have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of prolonged social isolation.

Stakeholder Mapping

Taking what we learned from literature review, we created a stakeholder map to visualize all the different parties that might be involved. Our three main stakeholder groups were young children, their parents, and friends and other family. For these three main stakeholder groups, we wrote down the challenges they face, preferred outcomes to work toward, and negative outcomes to avoid.

Research Question

We decided to focus on parents and guardians as our main stakeholder group. Guided by secondary research insights, we formulated a research question that we wanted to answer through primary research.

How have guardians of 6-8 year olds been able to deal with remote work, school, and social life during the pandemic?

Methods

Semi-Structured Interviews

For primary research, we conducted semi-structured interviews with parents and guardians of young children to learn about how their daily lives might have changed due to the pandemic as well as how they might be adapting to it.

Interviews were conducted virtually over Zoom.

Photo Elicitation

We also did a photo elicitation activity where we asked parents to take pictures of particular areas or objects of interest in their home in order to get more context about the spaces they were living in and working in.

The workspace of one of our participants' children.

Insights

Insight 1

Taking on more roles

Parents and primary caretakers suddenly have to become more than a parent or primary caretaker. Now they have to also act as a teacher, manager, and more for their child while balancing their own work obligations, which can be overwhelming.

“I'm not only there as her task manager, I am her teaching assistant. I'm her short order cook. I'm the principal. I'm the school counselor. And those are things that I was not told to anticipate doing.” –P5
Insight 2

Perpetual stress

Parents and primary caretakers are in a constant state of stress and anxiety with no opportunity for catharsis. So many uncertainties around the pandemic with no end in sight.

“Well this whole quarantine I have been in that ‘okay-okay-okay’ mode with a few minor breakdowns and then the fall came and school started and that's when I realized that I haven't had that moment of utter collapse into a heap, and I obviously I won't get that for a long time.” –P1
Insight 3

Lack of time

It is difficult for primary caretakers to find free time for themselves, which is negatively impacting their mental wellbeing and relationships within the household.

“The main thing that I have noticed is that [my partner] doesn't get breaks from the kids… Not that she got breaks from them before, but she really doesn't get a break at all now… I have seen [her] stress levels go through the roof.” –P4
Insight 4

Diminished support

Parents and primary caretakers can’t look to external support networks (e.g. extended family, friends, neighbors, etc.) for help due to social distancing measures. Also, they can no longer leverage childcare (e.g. daycare, school, babysitters, etc.).

“... I had lots of great strong friendships and family relationships outside of the household that I leaned on. But then this pandemic really just shrank and collapsed that world ... I feel like [my husband] has now become much more of support because of that.” –P2

How Might We...

How might we assist primary caregivers dealing with a constantly shifting environment better manage their private, professional, and familial schedules & tasks?

Design Principles

Adaptable

A solution that can adapt with the guardians’ needs as their landscape continues to change.

Reclaim Control

A solution that help guardians regain a sense of control in their ability to manage their daily tasks.

Shift Responsibilities

A solution that manages and shift responsibilities to help guardians accomplish their goals.

Desired Outcomes

Reduce Task Switching

Assist guardians with task switching through assisted prioritization and delegation to help reduce stress and anxiety associated with cognitive overload.

Manage Crisis

Provide assistance for guardians who feel discouraged, stressed, and physically exhausted to help them gain a feeling of competence and recovery.

Mitigate Role Switching

Reduce the number of roles guardians have to take on in their household to decrease tensions associated with having to balance these multiple roles.

Develop Ownership

Encourage children to take ownership and responsibility over some of their own tasks to help reduce the guardians’ required roles in the house.

Ideation

Sketches

We each came up with 30 concept sketches for a total of 90 ideas.

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Downselection

To downselect, we utilized several methods. We grouped together similar concepts and dot voted to narrow down the initial pool of ideas. We also evaluated concepts against our design principles. We also took a look at form factor and management method by placing concepts on a prioritization matrix. Eventually, we landed on our final concept, which would go on to become Helply.

Prototyping

Paper Prototypes

We planned out our key paths for our concept and created paper prototypes for each. The three key paths we wanted to test were the onboarding process, which the parent and child would do together so that they would be aligned on expectations and responsibilities. The second key path we wanted to test was for the wearable and how it would guide the child through performing a task. The last key path we wanted to test was a reward system to incentivize the child to complete tasks.

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Paper Prototype Feedback

We tested our paper prototypes with a few parents and their children. We walked them through each of our key paths (as best as we could through Zoom). Some of the major points of feedback were:

More Kid-Friendly

Language used in the child’s side of the system must be understandable to them. Visuals would be more understandable and more engaging.

“You know what would be beneficial… Having a  picture or photograph...having a visual chart of what needs to be done is highly recommended... having the ability to snap a photo in this just so that he has a visual of this.” –P1

Clear Expectations

Need to make sure parent and child are aligned on expectations. Onboarding has to be engaging for the child as well as understandable. Expectations around rewards need to be clear.

“Incentives go hand in hand with expectations...it’s going to be on a harder sale during task alignment without incentives” –P1

Guidance and feedback

Enough guidance and feedback should be given to the child through the process so they don’t need to rely on their parent to direct them. Parents also want to know how their child is doing.

“Make sure to show the steps as you move forward so they know where they are going and what's to come.” –P1
“I would love to see charts of what he’s done. So maybe a report card of chores...to see that he’s thriving, that’s a good feeling.” –P2

Flexibility

Children’s desires can change frequently. Parents need to be able to adjust incentives accordingly based on their child’s mood and interests.

“For a couple of days it would be a new thing, but if there’s a day that it wouldn’t work on him...and didn’t care about pizza or watching more TV... those things will just fly out that day.” –P2

Wearable Iterations

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Wireframes + Early Screens

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task Selection

Game

Debrief

Rewards

PArent App

Final Screens

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Onboarding

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Game

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Debrief

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Rewards

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Parent App

Specification Document

View full Specification Document

Future Work

User Testing on High-Fidelity Prototypes

If we had more time to work on this project, our next steps would include conducting user testing on our high-fidelity prototype as well as testing with families from a variety of backgrounds.

Consult Subject Matter Experts

We would also consult experts in child psychology and child development to see how we could improve our design based on the existing body of child research out there.

Explore Non-Wearable Options

We’d also be interested in exploring different form factors for the physical component and take a look at other ways children can engage with technology.

Expand Story Content

Finally, we’d like to expand the variety of story content to account for children with different interests. We’d likely want to work with game designers who specialize in children’s games on this.

Reflection

With this being one of our first design projects in school, there were definitely quite a few learning moments along the way.

Beware of Oversimplifying the Problem

That How Might We and those design principles? We didn’t get those right the first time. In our Ideation phase, we had to revise them because we were oversimplifying the problem and we weren’t being specific enough.

A Defined Recruitment Plan and Mitigating Sampling Bias

Admittedly, we recruited research participants in a pretty haphazard manner. We relied on convenience sampling due to time constraints and basically just took anyone who worked from home and had a child. As a result, our participants leaned more on the affluent and privileged side. If we were to do this again, we’d want to interview families from a larger variety of backgrounds and circumstances.

Research Hiccups

During our research phase, we had planned to conduct a particular research activity (contextual inquiry), but we ended up not conducting it properly due to misunderstanding on our part. Luckily, we were able to improvise and have our participants do a different activity for us.