Personal communication for kids

The IN2it project aimed to create a personal communicator for children and was especially designed for young girls. Many of the popular applications for boys, which dominated the market at the time, were unappealing to their feminine counterparts.

Children were involved extensively in the design process. Group discussions were held, round-robin questionnaires were used and children were asked to make sketches of their 'ideal' product. They were also given cameras and asked to take pictures of computers they used, diaries, their room, and many other things. One group of children was asked to write a story in which the product would play a role.

The resulting product consisted of a small handheld device with touch-sensitive display, pen input, infra-red communication, and audio output. The functionality and interface of the product focused on fun, creative, communicative, personal, and magical applications. The interface used the metaphor of a 'living world' in which the user could freely move around. The children could use a great variety of applications, including a weekly calendar and alarm clock, a photo album, a fortune teller, and a communicator. It could be used to create letters, tunes and drawings which could be stored within the product, onto cards or sent by infra-red to another product.

In2it was designed to link to some of the same trends which have since caused chat spaces and Tamagotchis to flourish. However, due to unforeseen technical challenges, the product introduction would have been delayed. In such a fast-changing market, this was too risky, especially considering the large marketing investment involved.

Roads not taken
The reasons these designs did not become viable product propositions vary greatly. Timing, production feasibility, market conditions and a host of other factors all play a role. But there is no shame in being able to recognize and admit a potential lack of success. In fact, it is an intrinsic part of the learning process.