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Playtime with Pippa


How could Nick Jr help both kids and caretakers?

This was the question we asked ourselves when tasked with making a chatbot for Nick Jr for a project in our Physical Computing class. We wanted to reach kids and their caretakers in a meaningful way that would help them connect with both the brand and each other.

We decided to do this by developing some tools that could help parents, in a way that would work alongside their usual parenting. This is where Pippa comes in. She exists in Messenger bot form, where she can connect parents with resources, and in Google Home. There, she can set reminders and guide kids through lots of activities with the help of their favorite Nick Jr characters.

Below, you can see what that looks like, and learn more about our process and reasoning.

Part One: We watch kids' shows

My group was actually very excited to be assigned Nick Jr. However, all we had going in were fond
(if fuzzy) memories of watching it — none of us had toddlers. Cue the research.

Key Questions: 
How is Nick Jr reaching out to its current audience? 
Who are the stakeholders, and what do they need? 
Who are its competitors, and how can Nick Jr differentiate? 

Our research focused on Nick Jr's two key audiences: the kids who are actually watching the shows, and the "grownups" (as Nick Jr calls them) who are watching along, or providing devices/access. We thoroughly examined Nick Jr's website, social channels, and content (Yes, lots of Paw Patrol was watched. No, we haven't gotten the music out of our heads since.) as well as that of competitors.
We also looked at parenting message boards, Facebook groups, and interviewed parents of toddlers, as 
well as a few toddlers themselves, to get a feel for Nick Jr's current standing with parents and kids.

Here are their respective thoughts around Nick Jr: 


Parents have lots of concerns around screen time in general, which we would need to address. They also want to know that what their kid is watching comes from a trustworthy source. Our first priority became building out and supporting this trustworthy and helpful brand image. Oh, and parents hear enough kid voices - a more mature voice and tone was the key requirement for our chatbot.

For kids, they don't have that many thoughts about Nick Jr. They know their favorite shows and characters, but that's it. They really love those characters though, so we wanted to include them wherever possible.

Part Two: Getting in the flow

In the end, we decided on three key functions: providing resources to parents, creating reminders that parents could set using their child's favorite characters, and fun, beneficial activities that kids could follow along with.

The first function would reside solely in a text-based interface, which we prototyped in Chatfuel. The next two functions would be fulfilled primarily through a voice interface, which we prototyped using Dialogflow and tested on a Google Home device. 

Below, you can view the flow model for our chatbot portion (built in Overflow):


Part Three: I imitate a cartoon dog

The voice interface was key to this project. Through the voice feature, parents could set reminders or start activities that would encourage kids to learn and move, away from a screen. In order to get the customized content for our voice prototype, we recorded our own. Marshall (clumsy but lovable Dalmatian from Paw Patrol) was voice acted by yours truly. Our favorite feature, a toothbrush reminder that would then help kids brush for the proper amount of time, is demonstrated below in this (Oscar-worthy) video.

Part Four: Reviews

10/10, would do again. I learned three new programs, as well as a new way of approaching experiences. Building an entire interface when the user has no traditional point of reference required new thinking, and lots of testing. I'm especially impressed by our work given the fact that the actual prototype building happened within a week. [Timing constraints were provided by the class, not our group.] 

20/10, would group again. If you are looking for four designers whose attitudes mesh and skills complement each other perfectly, look no further, and just hire all of us. We contributed equally throughout the whole project, but each person took the lead during different parts of the process. 
Ginny Adamson (me), Dialogflower | Mareya Stearns, Tech Whisperer & Toothbrusher
Danny Timbers, Chatfuel Champion | Tika Appaiah, Video and Visuals 

What's Next? 
In order to develop this further, I would want to start with extensive user testing, especially involving both kids and grownups. Then we could continue refining the inputs and outputs according to feedback. It would also be great to build in more character/show options, especially tied to what's popular or what Nick Jr wants to promote. I would also like to finish building out all of our proposed features, like more robust educational activities.

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