Lango: Interactive Word Block for Fun Language Learning

Designer
2015. 3 - 2016. 1
Overview
The project expects young children to be familiar with languages in tangible and fun way. Lango is multilingual word puzzle consisted of 3 blocks with a LCD display each. The blocks can be built up and automatically break down when the user creates a word with the blocks and show the translation of the word in different languages and visual aid. I came up with the interaction concept and participated as a visual designer with the team.
Methods & Toolkit
Ideation, Processing, Arduino, Soldering & Laser Cutting

Question

Would children be attracted if usual alphabet blocks have digital features? How can we enhance both educational and fun factors of alphabet blocks for children?

Concept

I came up with the main interaction concept of Lango is based on building and automatic breaking down interaction of the blocks. This piling and unpiling interaction was inspired by the mythological structure Babel Tower, which created numerous languages when it broke down I wanted to create a fun, cognitive, emotional interaction with the user through a physical reaction rather than simple visual, sound transition. Also, I wanted to examine whether this seemingly negative ‘collapse’ movement not be destructive, but can be helpful for the users.

1st Prototype

Circuit design is based on connection between Arduino Fio board, Xbee, 1.8 inch TFT LCD display, pressure sensor, mini servomotor. In the first prototyping, The board and the jumper wire were used to complete the circuit. The circuit was completed with breadboard and jumper wire without housing.

The pressure sensor is installed to recognize the order in which the blocks are aligned. It was small in size, had a easily distinguishable range of sensed values, was easy to install. We also considered other options such as a toggle switch, but decided to go with sensors for more seamless interaction.

The servo motor is attached to the each block to implement the collapse of the blocks. We attempted using a vibrator-too weak to break the block-and a DC motor-needed convoluted mechanism.

The Arduino Fio board, which was used as a mainboard, was already well-equipped with the Xbee wireless connection port, making it ideal for creating connection between the blocks. In addition, pressure sensors and servo motors were designed to be as small as possible to make children easy to play with the blocks.

The initial technical prototype
Wireless connection needs host computer to send sensor data and retrieve the images

2nd Prototype

In the second prototyping, the circuit was housed in a laser-cut wood. The initial design was a parallelepiped block with a short vertical length, but it was changed to a cube so that children could easily build it up. For the second prototype, we implemented:

  1. Expanding word database
  2. Physical interaction: Weight input using pressure sensor, collapse using servo motor
  3. Wireless Bluetooth operation by connection with host computer
Configuration
Hardware Cover made with laser Cutting

Future

  1. Word recognition (implemented as image in database) : I made the database of all possible 3-letter words by hands, however, we can make use of the online database of English or words in any other language that are already distributed.
  2. More detailed interaction : Screen switching, sound effect : We can add other interaction for the user to distinguishe whether he or she puts the word right or wrong, by giving a blinking effect to the screen or sound effect, thereby enabling more unified interaction.
  3. Mobile application : Currently, the prototype should be connected with a host computer. However, it can be developed as a mobile interface with a mobile application with additional features like word cards.
  4. Increasing the number of blocks : For now, it is possible to display only three languages ​​(English, Korean, and images) on three blocks with three letters, but later we can add a number of blocks.

Outcome

With the concept of building and breaking down interaction with blocks, we implemented prototyping iteration twice, and the second prototype was exhibited in Kids section, HCI Korea 2015. Through the design process with team members, I acquired the knowledge about concept making, physical computing skill such as circuit design, laser cutting, and 3D printing, and most importantly, the quality of persistence for one working prototype through numerous micro failures.