Our strategists and designers embarked on a research sprint to better understand the challenges, opportunities, and needs of children across the developmental ability spectrum. We also engaged with parents, family members, and caregivers to better understand their experience, priorities, and unmet needs. This work was key to informing the product positioning as well as the holistic experience design. The research also led us to an informed design approach that resulted in a warmer and more approachable concept than the existing robotic stereotype. Every design decision was considered by asking ourselves "how is this encouraging and fostering connection?"—from the physical form and material choices down to the details of the coordinated interactions.
What role can an AI-equipped, smart companion play in the ever-evolving world of health & wellness? How can parents better support their children during their developmental years as they learn new social skills? These are some of the questions fuseproject aims to address with the launch of Moxie, a revolutionary animate companion from Embodied, Inc. that is designed to help all children across the ability spectrum to build social, emotional, and cognitive skills through everyday play-based learning and engaging content.
Tall enough to be of interest without being unwieldy, Moxie measures in at 387mm tall. The fuseproject team took special care to define and balance the animate companion’s key features including its facial expression, overall shape, color palette, and exterior materiality. This carefully considered approach to texture, materials and touch ensured Moxie strikes the right balance between approachability and intimacy, as well as durability, utility and longevity. Through rigourous rounds of prototyping, testing and focus groups, the team found a resonate character that appealled to children across ages, emotional spectrums and personal preferences.
The team iterated and redefined the model into a body type with smoother transitions along its limbs and balanced bodily proportions consistent with and complimentary to Moxie’s facial appearance. Integrating all the engineering components and technology into its frame was challenging—particularly with Moxie’s detailed form designed specifically to encourage interaction and resonate with children. All its expressive and endearing features—including the ears, head/playful projection tip, speakers, and arm/hand/finger details—come together to tell an otherworldly story about Moxie as a friendly companion from The Global Robotics Laboratory (G.R.L.) sent out as a robot ambassador with a mission to learn what it means to be a good friend to humans.
The fuseproject team designed the head with a slightly projected silhouette tip visible from the side profile. This form defines Moxie’s playful head shape, while also giving more character and life to its personality. Moxie’s uniform includes its signature profile tip (that also doubles as his helmet), gloves, and triangular badge on its chest. Moxie’s ears are an opportunity for interaction and visually signify that the smart companion can hear. Designing and simplifying a hand shape was an interesting challenge. Our approach is a simplified hand with an index finger that is pointed and a thumb silhouette. This minimal approach was simpler than a fully articulated hand, while delivering visual cues for kids interaction and games. The iconic hand creates a universally recognizable signal and simple level of communication: index finger to point, indicate interest, or ask a question.
The high-performance thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) overmolded material also wraps around Moxie’s hands, allowing it to point with a simple one finger gesture to play games. These design parameters and their collective interactions are important for establishing Moxie’s anthropomorphism and ability to traverse uncertain sensory data in an unpredictable environment like working with children. Moxie engages with children with its entire body. It can turn 360-degrees on its base to react to its child and effortlessly bend at the neck, belly, and base.
To seamlessly integrate form with behavior, Moxie is enabled by machine learning technology that continuously adapts to and learns from the human user. From the very moment Moxie says wakes up for the first time and says “hello”, it begins to absorb and learn. Over time, Moxie will begin to understand the child’s personality, tendencies, and interests—and become better at connecting and supporting them through game-based learning exercises. Embodied has also created an entire universe for Moxie on the backend, including an online portal with games and stories, monthly mailings of printed activities and fun items such as stickers and trading cards, and a companion app designed specifically for parents to track their child’s progress.
To align with the technology used to light the face and signal nuanced feelings such as vulnerability, interest, or concern, the team created a friendly, simple, and perceptible face that relays complex facial expressions and a wide range of emotions. Moxie’s large eyes and expressive face were critical features that were integrated into the design to protect children from excessive screen-time, help them more easily recognize certain emotions, and make the interaction experience feel all the more real.
Fast Company Innovation by Design
- Finalist - Products Category, 2020
- Honorable Mention - Social Good Category, 2020
- Shortlist - Products Category, 2020
Good Design Awards - The Chicago Athenaeum
- Winner, 2020