Investigating the Design & Use of a New Smart Toy 

January 2016- March 2016
PI Dylan Yamada-Rice (formally) University of Sheffield

As part of the wider COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action IS1410 on ‘The digital literacy and multimodal practices of young children (DigiLitEY)’ I completed a Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) to investigate the design and use of a new smart toy.

Image: Avakai/ photo by Vai Kai

The technology at the heart of the study was a new type of interactive and personalised digital device being developed by a German company called Vai Kai who hosted the STSM. The connected device was a companion for children known as Avakai. Avakai are wooden figures with embedded Bluetooth technology that are designed to combine play and communication practices across online and offline domains without using screens. The devices are touch sensitive and have also been designed with a small storage in their base to promote imagination and literacy practices through story creation.

Image: Avakai concept design

Project blog

Related Publications

Yamada-Rice, D. (2018) Designing Play: young children’s play and communication practices in relation to designers’ intentions for their toy. Global Studies of Childhood, Vol.8, No.1. p. 5-22.

Yamada-Rice, D. (2019) Including Children in the Design of the Intenet of Toys: In Mascheroni, G. & Holloway, D. (Eds) The Internet of Toys: Practices, Affordances and the Political Economy of Children’s Smart play.

Yamada-Rice, D. (2017) Designing connected play: Perspectives from combining industry and academic know-how. In: Chaudron S., Di Gioia R., Gemo M., Holloway D., Marsh J., Mascheroni G., Peter J., Yamada-Rice D. Kaleidoscope on the Internet of Toys - Safety, security, privacy and societal insights, EUR 28397 EN, doi:10.2788/05383

Image: Avakai prototypes