More than Human Centred Design


A Demonstration of SoundWear: Wearable Device Using Sound Augmentation to Enrich Open-ended Outdoor Play Experience of Children

  • Jiwoo Hong, Department of Industrial Design, KAIST, Daejeon, Korea, Republic of
  • HyeonBeom Yi, Department of Industrial Design, KAIST, Daejeon, Korea, Republic of
  • Jaehoon Pyun, Department of Industrial Design, KAIST, Daejeon, Korea, Republic of
  • Woohun Lee, Department of Industrial Design, KAIST, Daejeon, Korea, Republic of
  • Corresponding email(s): jwhong10@kaist.ac.kr
  • Research group webpage
  • ACM DL Link: Associated Paper or Pictorial

This demo presents a bracelet-type wearable device, called SoundWear, and an acrylic plate with multiple units with RFID tags, called SoundPalette, where the tags represent various non-speech sounds. Regarding the non-speech sound, we collected both everyday sounds and instrumental sounds, which have differences in its meaningfulness and affect interpretation and improvisation in play. SoundWear has four phases of user scenario. First, placing SoundWear on SoundPalette causes the sounds stored in the latter to be generated from the former, so children can navigate freely while listening to each sound. Then, children can select the desired sound by holding the push button on SoundWear while placing their wrist on SoundPalette. During the sonification, SoundWear generates the selected sound when the arm is intentionally swung. Besides, there exists a communicative function allowing sounds to be transferred between multiple SoundWear devices by facing the devices and pressing the button. The results of a user study with sixteen children show that the presence and types of sound augmentation could affect children's outdoor play in physical, social, and imaginative perspectives.

Who is the target audience and why design for them? We designed this device for the open-ended outdoor play experience of especially that of children. Previously, a large part of children's open-ended play used to take place outdoors. In recent years, however, there has been growing concern that children spend most of their playing time watching TV, playing computer games, and using mobile phones only indoors. This lack of outdoor play may deprive children of unique benefits such as physical activity, social skills, and imaginative thinking. Impressed by the previous research on leveraging outdoor play opportunities by creating digitally enhanced playthings and environments, we were interested in the integration of sound augmentation technology into the outdoor play of children. We expected that the use of sound augmentation as a core digital feature could be a promising way to promote the play benefits by activating physical movement, enhancing social awareness, and facilitating pretense-related thoughts depending on its meaningfulness.

What were the challenges or limitations encountered in this project? We encountered the challenges of prototyping the wearable device that is suitable for the context of children's outdoor play. Above all, the device had to be sturdy enough to withstand the harsh physical movements, and at the same time, it should not be bulky or uncomfortable for children to perform outdoor play freely. Though we could implement the prototype with small size and appropriate thickness, the desire to develop it lighter and smaller for the best use of children remains. Besides, this project provided interaction with a SoundPalette so that children can directly browse and select the sound, which accompanied technical difficulties in the design and implementation of the RFID reader located at the bottom of the SoundWear. For now, the wiring between the shell and the reader is exposed; but we can further develop it in the direction of hiding it in a wearable strap for better durability and aesthetics. We also had limitations while investigating the impact of SoundWear in the user study. Our study included participants with limited diversity: Asian children with above-average socioeconomic status. Besides, the play space was not where the children typically played, and the presence of moderators may have hindered natural play.

What are the opportunities and next steps for this project? We are now discussing how to further increase the open-endedness of the design by reviewing children’s feedbacks from a user study. For the future development of SoundWear, children showed a desire to personalize sound augmentation by recording their voices and wanted additional functions that they can adjust the timing of the interaction and the volume of sounds. Children not only interpreted and improvised the technology given in an open-ended way but also would be able to actively engage in open-ended play by intervening in the authoring (personalizing or customizing) of interactions. Thus, in our opinion (though this was not the main focus of this DIS paper and demo), the more children can determine and author the interactions by themselves, the higher the technology can support open-endedness, and consequently, more chances can be given to children to improvise and create their own digitally enhanced games and play. Of course, as seen in several prototyping platforms for play outdoors, such authoring of interactions can compromise play experiences by making the manipulation difficult and inducing a head-down play, which can impede an open-ended play; thus, it needs further attention on its use and design in future works.

To the Demo Visitors: We expect visitors to give a variety of perspectives and suggestions for the use of this prototype for both academia and practice, particularly regarding: What design aspects should be considered for children to constantly engage in digitally augmented play using this prototype? What features and interactions can be further developed for the promotion of outdoor play benefits? Can this kind of knowledge related to sound augmentation and wearables be applied to other applications (e.g., indoor toy play, gaming) and other target groups (e.g., older of younger children, adults)?