Interactive display to break down social barriers

Published:  October 12, 2015
Marcus Ryan

Chulin Yang, a Masters student in Interaction Design at Monash University, had the idea to build an interactive platform that helps break the boundaries of social interaction amongst children whilst she was in a queue waiting for her turn on a roller-coaster ride at a theme park.

“The children were just standing there, waiting, and making no contact with their counterparts. That experience made me think about the relationship between children. What’s stopping them to communicate? What’s the fear exactly?”


Yang said that social anxiety and disorders were major social issues for young children and decided to embark on her project which is an interactive platform display aimed to develop connections between children aged three to eight. According to her and her team, the large display will be used in public spaces as a media to facilitate interactive social behaviours where there are usually long waiting times for children, such as airports, railway stations, and hospitals.


This platform has been designed to support various applications. One of which is called ‘Seesaw’ where children touch the large display to create bubbles; the longer they touch the screen, the bigger the bubble. Children work in teams to create bubbles on each side of the seesaw, aiming to get more on one side. Eventually the bubbles fade, leaving the game to continue for the next group of children.

desktop caught up with Yang and learnt more about the design of her project which she now plans to test on children and in public areas.

How did you come up with the design of the platform? Take us through the creative process.

My research can be separated into two stages.

In the first stage, I focused more on the background research to find out the exact needs, which included emotional needs, from children themselves through various surveys. I also investigated a number of sample products in the market which are aimed to fulfil the same outcome but surprisingly they did not offer efficient solutions for this issue so far.

To better understand my target users, I tried to put myself in their shoes to understand their characteristics, their behaviours and requirements. Then based on my research, I summarised several keywords as guideline to further develop more design ideas.

Then comes the next stage where I took into consideration the overall design. I gradually realised that this design was not merely to entertain children, but also to maintain public regulation, a design that can create the balance among society and the area it would be in.


What design aesthetics did you consider when designing for children – from colour palettes to the use of various design elements and imagery?

Children in a waiting queue may be in an anxious, restless state and so, I try to bring various story-telling elements into the design. This design simplifies the physical children’s playground experiences onto a screen, and at the same time, gets rid of all the irrelevant visual elements, so that the children can focus on “connection” rather than “entertainment”.

Is designing a platform for children harder than designing something for adults? Why or why not?

I personally think that in this project, designing for children is more challenging. Simply because children are active in nature, whereas the design scenario of “waiting” paradoxically requires balance and calm. So I needed to figure out a design that is attractive to the children, yet maintains that balance.

I personally think that design approaches vary in different user scenarios, and in my case, that  “balance” is key. This design is about the balance between dynamic and static, the balance between time and space, and the balance between user and system

Also, we have to understand that children have a lower ability or understanding of operating a system as compared to adults. So, it was difficult for me to get out of an adult’s headspace and minimise the complicated interaction costs in this system.


What other challenges did you face when designing this platform?

I am not from an I.T background and so during the development process, I encountered a lot of technical dilemmas which I managed to overcome with the help of my supervisor and team.

What other interactive applications are you working on or want to work on in the future?

The development process of “Seesaw” has given me a better understanding of how technology can really help to make changes in people and in society. I want to explore more possibilities to further develop this project and perhaps include things like sensory inputs and tangible interaction.


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