Talk to the Book is a children's interactive storybook aimed at kids aged 3 to 5 years old who have developmental delays or disorders with their speech. The device addresses the potential difficulty of engaging children who need to practice their speech, as well as the theme of 'Future Mundane' by using a tactile interface and an interactive story during their practice. The device is intended to primarily be used as supplementary at-home practise for children who are already seeing a speech therapist, and is meant to be assisted by parents to roleplay with their children with the added benefit of bonding with them while doing so.
The storybook itself is made out of acrylic with pages using different tactile materials which play a part in the story being told. There are an array of LED neopixel lights inside the box that link up to the software guiding the users through the interaction. The behind the scenes software has been put together and run thorugh unity which runs the storybook audio and visual prompts. These prompts are enabled by RFID readers run on ardunio boards which are searching for the correct story pieces to be placed down to provide the prompt for the children to practice their speech. To enable the speech recognition the google cloud speech-to-text API is being called from our express/node.JS web application which also logs relevant data to monogoDB for the speech pathologist to review. A library called Ardity for unity was used to implement the neopixels and arduino boards with unity with calls to our restful API for all speech prompts. All together the storybook is able to guide the user through their speech pathology training in an engaging and entertaining way.
For the exhibition we wanted to create the feeling of entering a child’s room. We did this by creating a cosy and inviting setting of plush toys, soft chairs, a tepee and plenty of fairy lights. Talk to the Book was placed so that both children and adults could interact with the solution. To show unity we were all wearing our own design of team t-shirts, had brochures for visitors and upon completing the story, the participants were offered a sticker of one of the story characters. The feedback we received on our product was overwhelmingly positive! Adults were impressed with the idea behind the solution and goal of helping children overcome speech pathological difficulties. The children interacted really well with the concept and enjoyed playing with the different characters both while using the book, but also while playing in the tepee. The children also interacted well with the pages of the book, touching the sensory areas of the pages like the hay, water and dirt. Overall the main response received was, that it was a creative way to try help children in their speech pathology training. The next key steps in the project would be to work further with the materials of the pages, characters and book itself. There is room for improvement in quality for a final stage product, as we did not have the time to correct these small beauty errors ourselves for the exhibition. More importantly the next step would be the permanent instalment of the electronics into the book, so that wires and computer components would be hidden for the user. Here it would also be important that the story starts by the user opening the book, and not by our commands on the computer. Lastly it will be great to test this product and idea on children attending speech pathology, and test within a clinical setting. This will provide us great inside into the clinical value and treatment outcomes using this tool.