In 2016, connected toys were an emerging market, new technologies at low prices enabled to bring interactive physicality to screens like never before. Parents were looking for novel ways to engage their kids with technology.
Through the development of “quick and dirty”cardboards, I was able to observe user behaviours. The central insight I discovered is that physical objects would trigger user’s imagination and engage them in storytelling in better ways than with other mediums such as paper and pen, or audio. Experiment B, narrowed around storytelling with objects, highlighted that variety in physical forms and colours (aka character design) would enable more variety and complexity in the story users created. This experiment informed will later inform product design: users would initially play with objects in an unlimited space in the room, as soon as the green mat was placed in the experiment, users would naturally limit themselves to the area defined by the mat.
Translating the non-technological experiments to interactive prototypes enabled users to create 3D visualisations without technical barriers, just expressing their imagination on the go.
3.Product design and tech
From the experimental insights, trend and market research I came up with a design proposal:
The creativity triggers were designed around a study in storytelling, and character archetypes. I selected character archetypes that would enable the most dramatical situations (hero, sidekick, princess, villain). The creativity triggers were designed to offer the right balance between suggesting a personality but leaving enough room for the user’s imagination to exist.
To make it work I researched the full range of available technologies . Unfortunately, available tech such as optical tracking were too hard to use for the end-user (calibration, line of sight, etc…), I had to develop my own 3D tracking technology:
Because we were developing a core technology and a product, we divided the team in 3 streams: core technology, product design and software.
The technology development took too long to reach a satisfying point. In parallel, we developed an ideal product design, that required very complex, specific and expensive manufacturing processes.
In the end, we manage to merge the 3 streams into a single fully functional and manufacturable product but had lost considerable time and funds in the journey.
A unique learning experience.
Kodama 3DGo was designed to be a platform. The following diagram shows the stakeholders and their role in the platform:
We successfully unlocked partnership with a few indie studios and bigger studios like Disney Interactive. We helped to port games, and 3rd parties could develop or port their own using our SDK.
This video shows how easy it was to use the SDK:
To demonstrate the potential for gameplay variety we developed many “quick and dirty” game prototypes with our SDK:
Before launch, and during the entire development process we regularly conducted user testing sessions with schools and storytellers:
5.Production and Launch
We manufactured 15 units of our product in China and focused on user testing with the target audience. It was great to see users from age 3 to 12 adopting the interface immediately.
It was a real achievement: the early-stage design insight combined with our incredible team effort empowered a new generation to create in 3D!
Our team developed the core technology ( 3D tracking system), the hardware product, the SDK and a series of 3 creation oriented games included in the initial package (3D painting, 3D building, and 3D animation). We develop Kodama’s presence on social media, and some of our videos were viewed more than 50,000 times. The following videos are teasers in preparation for the launch:
Kodama won a number of Awards and was incubated in the Royal College of Art accelerator and accelerated in the leading VR/AR accelerator in California, BoostVC. This is a video of Kodama’s future vision during the BoostVC demo day in front of 100+ executives and investors in Silicon Valley:
In the end, the retailers supposed to buy our first batch of units and support the marketing campaign for the crowdfunding cancelled the deal at the last minute.
Even though people were paying to pre-order our product, we couldn’t sustain marketing and team cost and the project was closed.
I am still supporting the company, using the technology into a professional tool, the XR-mouse, which is a more sustainable business model and more investable.