In the course Smart Toys – a multi-disciplinary course bringing students from social sciences together with design students – my group developed 3×3 – 9 physical boxes which can either act as input- or output-devices. Our question was how children deal with abstract interfaces and how much they enjoy playing with them.
The boxes contained either a sensor or actuator and could be linked through mini-jack cables. There was one input-box with a mechanical slider, a pressure-sensitive one as well as one with a round potentiometer, which could be rotated. On the output-side we made a light-box with an LED, one with a motor and one generating sound. Each input-box could be linked to any of the output-boxes, e.g. when the fader was connected to the light-box, moving the fader dimmed the light. When the children plugged it into the music-box the fader controlled the pitch of the sound.
I had a lot of fun building these prototypes and enjoyed seeing the children having fun with our creations! We were amazed how much fun they had – the boxes were not spectacular and didn’t look fancy, nevertheless they experimented with the boxes for as long as we let them and didn’t want to stop.