Decoding Design

Interactive toy dances from clinic into stores

Interactive toy dances from clinic into stores

Posting in Design

An interactive robot originally designed as a therapeutic toy for autism research will be available this fall.

As reported on CNET in February, one of the cutest robots in the world will be manufactured by British toy company WOW! Stuff. My Keepon, renamed from BeatBots' original Keepon, has also found a distributor and will be on Toys R Us shelves exclusively beginning in October 2011.

Of course bringing a robot, even if only ten inches tall, with $30,000 of technology to store shelves for less than $50 meant some refining and re-engineering. So what are some of the changes between the highly sophisticated research version and the ready for retail version?

1. The original Keepon was designed for clinical research of and therapy for children with autism. The robot's humanlike responses to the children's touches and gestures were controlled wirelessly by researchers who observed via a camera. The commercial version replaces the camera with a microphone in My Keepon's nose and touch sensors in its head.

2. My Keepon has separate touch and dance modes. In the touch mode, the robot will respond to pats with a variety of gestures and sounds, including sneezing, responding differently depending on the frequency and rhythm of the touches. In dance mode, the robot will bop and twist along to the music. A randomization algorithm lets the robot produce different dances even if the music is repeated.

3. Internally, precise handmade machinery has been replaced with standardized parts.

4. In addition to the requisite accessories and outfits, BeatBots and WOW! Stuff also have plans to develop tools so that owners can completely personalize the toy, inside and out.

What hasn't changed is that the toy will embody BeatBots' philosophy of 'cuteness, personality, simplicity, and rhythmic interaction' and its philanthropic research based mission. As part of the development deal, WOW!Stuff will dedicate a portion of My Keepon's sales to autism research. The designers hope that proceeds from My Keepon will fund additional therapeutic clinics and expanded autism research. Read more about BeatBots projects and mission on their website.

You can still watch the hugely popular video of Keepon dancing to Spoon's I Turn My Camera until the toy is available:

Via: Businessweek

Image: BeatBots

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure