An AI-hand-controller, that empowers children's cognitive development, through movement and collaboration, in a virtual space.
In January 2021, side by side with the second Covid19 lockdown, I started developing the MO project in order to empower 'young brains' in digital interactions, particularly, for the future of education. As I see it, the education system that entered immediately into the virtual space, where the magic usually happens, forgot to take their magic wand. And as a consequence, many children missed the fun part of the learning.
INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION
The motivation for this journey was Mel (5) and Lille (3), my daughters, who were at home, for almost a year, during the remote-learning period. Observing their quick digital adjustments, on one hand, and the lack of engagement in school, on the other, brought me wondering how will their future work, look like? in this fast-evolving digital world. Are today’s schools really capable of preparing them for 2036? And “How Might We Enhance Childrens’ Cognition In the Digital Classroom?"
Even long before the Pandemic, it was scientifically proven that long hours of screen time, for playing and learning, affect human cognition and flatten emotional intelligence. But suddenly, these young brains, who were mostly used to in-person play-learning, are using digital-communication platforms exclusively, and this is the "new normal". So I focused my research on primary school children's cognitive abilities. This age group, of Early-Years children, is vitally important, as they are just starting to develop their learning habits and social behaviors. For more than six months, I was in contact with many children, parents, educators, and tech experts, from Israel, the UK, and the US. All in order to understand the pain points of “behind the zoom-scene” and help the "passive-learner" to be more engaged within the remote learning experience.
I found much evidence that connects doing and learning. Especially in Early-Years when children explore the world through all their senses. Through motion, children develop a range of complex skills that are called gross and fine motor skills. And from a social point of view, a study by McKinsey says that supporting social and emotional skills development can increase cognitive abilities by 11%.
So I didn’t know where to start but I knew what I wanted to achieve. A Digital Co-dynamic educational experience, Inspired by - “Portuguese man of war”. It looks like a single jellyfish, but in fact, it is made out of many small units, that together allow the colony to operate as a single individual. Like an ecosystem
Goal - Educational Ecosystem
SOLUTION: VISUAL AIR WRITING
In order to build a meaningful interaction between children and computers, I developed a Python code, based on The Air Writing Educational Method, using virtual painter and Google AI hand tracking. I made many collaborative experiments with the young children and when I tried it on children in different age groups I found that they all needed a tangible tool to hold while "air-writing” (like a pen). Another insight was that they wanted to control the UI independently. So, with some help, I tweaked the UI, added hand gestures, and started developing MO (the soft controller.)
MO - AI Hand Controller, Device, and Software.
For the tangible controller design, I looked at children's pencil grasp development and test many materials with the children. As an outcome, I developed an AI system for a blended classroom. Firstly children interact with MO - an AI hand controller that allows children to write in a virtual space. And secondly, in school, they will be holding MO while the MOTUS dock works in the background. The MOTUS is an AI Vision device, with a smart camera that communicates with the MO controller and collects all the data from each student, in order to support one's cognitive growth.
The Motus UI
I would like to thank the people, from all over the globe, who supported my research, during this year of crisis. It was a pleasure learning from each and every one of them. And mostly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Webb, a brilliant educator who contributed to my project, all along the way, with useful insights and inspiration, from the educational field. I am also thankful to Adam Stark from MIMU Gloves, the innovative wearable musical instrument, who supported the first phase of the experiments. A huge thanks to Gilad Landau and Anat Varon-Monteta who contributed so thoroughly with coding, and for the talented Adam Kusha, for the perfect product design. Without you guys, it wouldn't be as powerful as it is. A big thank you to the amazing parents, and the children: Mila, Mary, Charlotte, Amy, Jack, Hadar, Omeri, Daniel, and Noam, who took part in the experiments and taught me a lot about their smart brains. I really appreciate it, without you, the research would not have been possible, especially under the Covid19 restructurings.
A warm thanks to my Israeli family, for supporting us during the second lockdown and beyond. And the biggest thanks ever goes to my one and only love - Amit, and my daughters Mel, and Lille, who supported me days, nights, weekends, and lockdowns with loads of baby tantrums and cuddles ;). And last but not least, The Imperial College and The Royal College of Art tutors and teaching fellows, who helped me flourish, within this challenging year.