SoundWear Device Enhances Children's Playtime Through Sound Interaction

This bracelet enables children to explore, select, sonify, and transfer sounds for open-ended play outdoors.

More parents are concerned that their children are playing video games, watching TV, and spending more time on their phones, rather than going outside and engaging in physical and social activities. Health professionals regard playing as part of a joyful and rewarding life that encourages physical activity, boosts social skills, and engages the imagination. In an effort to mitigate those concerns, researchers from KAIST have developed a sound-augmented wearable bracelet that utilizes digital technology to leverage play benefits.

The team's SoundWear device augments play using a series of different sounds (everyday and instrumental sounds), which are activated using gestures and swinging motions, and can be shared with others wearing the wristband. The unit itself was designed using NeoPixels and a speaker, which are driven by an Arduino Nano, 9-axis IMU, and an MP3 board to produce sound. It's also outfitted with an IR transmitter / receiver, and an RFID chip to send and receive data with others.

The researchers tested SoundWear with kids who were allowed to explore multiple sounds using KAIST's SoundPalette app and found the quantitative and qualitative results showed that augmenting children's playtime with every day sounds boosted their imagination and distinct play behaviors. They even discovered that using gestures with the SoundWear wristband helped kids gain a sense of achievement and ownership with the produced sounds, which led them to be physically and socially active.

While the SoundWear won't hit the market any time soon, the researchers feel their device will open up discussions on open-ended play with HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) and the use of sound augmentation and wearables to boost playtime experiences.

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