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SHADOWGRAM

Shadowgram, named from Shadowgraph of Tangram, is an interactive toy, aiming to revive one of Chinese ancient toys, tangram, by combining it with modern interactive technology.

Category: Interactive Physical Product

Duration: 2 Months

Role: Solo, designed all except animation design

Tools: Rhino, CAD, CNC, Hand Crafting, Python

Tags: #Toy #Tangram #Shadow Puppetry

 
 
 

As modern toys become increasingly popular, like Sphero and Lego, the ancient toys were quickly tired of by picky children, just like the abandoned aged. However, some ancient toys are brainchild of wise ancients, and they should be inherited.

Images below from Baidu, 2017

 
 
 

Tangram is an ancient Chinese toy, consisting of seven flat shapes, which can be put together to form characters. According to the record, tangram can form over 1600 shapes. Tangram can not only serve as a playful toy but also an educational tool.

However, when I talked with parents in the toyshop, almost all of them don’t buy tangram for their kids. Instead, almost all of their kids love playing games in iPad. 

 
 
 

How can we save this endangered traditional toy?

Can we make a renaissance for traditional toys?

 
 
 

how will the toy industry develop?

I searched the internet and found the data and status of toy market:

  • In Chinese market, the value of market increase yearly and might reach 11.225 billion dollars in 2017. (from CBNData)

  • In the US market, the sales of game and puzzle toys grew the fast in all categories in Sept. 2016. (from NPD Group)

  • Among the world, interactive toys market has gradually formed and become more and more popular. (from Qdaily)

 
 
 

FIELD STUDY

Images taken by Yohe in Toys “R“ Us, Hangzhou, 2017

 
 

I observed how kids play toys in Toys "R" Us, a local toy store, and interviewed their parents about their kids’ preference of toys, and also asked cashiers in toy store about selling condition. Here are three main findings:

 
 
  • While kids are playing toys, parents are playing smartphones and there are no conversations with them.

  • Kids have a strong preference for the toys which are derived from their familiar cartoon character.

  • The most salable toys are from Lego, Hasbro, and electronic interactive toys.

 
 
 

Why are Interactive Toys so Popular?

 

Images from Baidu, 2017

 
 

I searched the features of interactive toys and found they are compelling to kids because:

  • Multiple interactive ways

  • Vivid digital avatars

  • Real-time feedback

 
 
 

what kind of children shall we choose as target users?

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget defined the mental development of children into four different stages. Based on this theory, I chose preschool-age children as our target users, because they are in the Pre-operational Stage, the most critical phase for children’s physical and psychological development. It is exactly Tangram can help.

 
 
 
 
 

WHAT ChallengeS I NEED TO FACE?

 

Images below from Baidu, 2017

 
 
 
 

HOW I COME UP WITH THE IDEA?

 
 
 

 
 

Finally I decided to design a projector that can recognize the different shapes of tangram and project them on the wall as interactive cartoon characters.

Here are three reasons why I come up with my final concept:

  • From field research, I found kids love interactive toys and cartoon IP. Since kids can use Tangram to make up thousands of shapes, why not use tangram to make up cartoon characters?

  • In front of toy store, parents and their kids played their toys respectively due to absence of common topics on certain toys, tangram could act as a bridge to link their childhood happiness together.

  • I searched internet and realized kids like playing with shadows, so I got inspired by another traditional art form, Shadow Puppetry, the early form of animation and film. It can help animate the shape made by Tangram.

 
 
 

HOW I made MY IDEA come true?

 
 
 

 
 

Here are three reasons why I chose Raspberry Pi, IR sensor and gesture sensor:

  • Arduino cannot be used for image processing, so I decided to use Raspberry Pi as processing unit.

  • At that time I didn’t know how to use OpenCV and only had two weeks to finish my thesis, so I decided to use IR sensor to recognize the shape.

  • Gesture is one of the most nature way of human behavior, and it can help children learn how to influence interactive characters through their gestures, which can help develop their logical and physical capability.

 
 
 

HOW I DIY THIS MAGICAL PROJECTOR?

Images from Baidu, 2017

Images taken in ZJUT ID Lab, 2017

 

HOW TO MAKE CHARACTERS FRISKY?

I collaborated with an animation designer to design animation for three different characters made by tangram.

 

Sketch by Zixin Yu, CAA BFA Animation, 2017

Animation Design 丨 Wizard

Animation Design 丨 Crane

Animation Design 丨 Tree

Animation designed by Zixin Yu, CAA BFA Animation, 2017