Final Synthesis Design Studio project

Gimble: introducing kids to team sports through sounds

  • Date: February 2015. / Category: Strategic design, business development


How do we design a product-service that solves a real need for people within the sport industry - and we succesfully market it?

Gimble introduces kids to sport using motion sensors and music as tools to support the physical activities and facilitate the interaction among kids.
The project has been tutored and prototyped at Politecnico di Milano, in partnership with IDEO and Stanford University.








What's Gimble

Searching for the reasons why many kids are not into sports, we found that shyness is a pretty common factor among “lazy” kids: it’s estimated that between 20% and 48% of children have shy personalities.
Between the two and four years of age, children go through a second phase of stranger anxiety as they become afraid of people they don’t know: they experience an abrupt jump from being alone to be in big groups.

We identified an area to teach children from 4 to 6 years old how to relate with others before they start practicing group sport activities.

Gimble is an educational course that we developed with the help of psychomotricians and minidance intructors, which introduces kids to sports using motion sensors and music as tools to support the physical activities and encourage the interaction within others.

During the course the child is gradually brought to internalize the basic motor skills to develop self-awareness and then be able to relate properly with others: to cooperate, collaborate and communicate and consequentially practice with greater success any group sport overcoming shyness.


Kids use motion sensor bracelets which recognize movements, responding to them with different sounds, (...) for example the accuracy of a correct jump will be highlighted by a specific “boooing”.



Music plays a fundamental role.
Kids use motion sensor bracelets which recognize movements, responding to them with different sounds, according to the activity.

For every movement a specific sound feedback is provided, to make clear and tangible the result and quality of an action: for example the accuracy of a correct jump will be highlighted by a specific “boooing”.

The concept received the interests of Italian Psychomotricity Association teachers for both eduational and research related possible developments and has been succesfully prototyped with kids in simulated activities.

Full project & design process






The problem and the users

Introduction to sport

The introduction of the child to the sport, the first approach to the movement, is a delicate moment.

The structuring of the basic activities of motion is fundamental to the proper practice of the sports that the child will later attend. The approach to the movement will act on his mental development as well as on the physical.

While some argue that it’s never too early to get kids active and involved in athletics, most experts believe that the focus should be on general movement and play, not learning specific sports skills. What’s important is that kids learn to “play smart” and interact with others.

Why 4 years old kids?

The period of the most rapid development of motor behaviors and relational skills is the period between 2 and 6 years (also known as the preschool years).

Interaction with others is a factor that goes along with the introduction of the child to the movement.

The reason why some kids face difficulties to interact for the first time in big group sports is because they were not introduced on time to physical activities, and because they experience a sudden jump from being alone to being with others.

This often leads to major consequences in the relational aspects of older kids and, sometimes, even in the adult age - as stated by many teachers we’ve been working with.


The reason why some kids face difficulties to interact in group sports is because they were not introduced on time to physical activities, experiencing a sudden jump from being alone to being with others.

This often leads to major consequences in the relational aspects of older kids and, sometimes, even in the adult age

Actual Situation in Milan, Italy

Kindergarden and schools

In Kindergarten as well as for the first year of primary school, there isn’t a structured and designed motor activity. Children usullya play freely with the supervision of the teacher.

Coni - italian sport promotion organization

Coni is promoting motor awareness through the development of plans for sportive centers for the introduction to the sport for children between 5 and 7 years.

The city of Milan is promoting physical education in primary schools through a project called “giocosport” devoted to 600 classes for a period of 10 hours. a teacher, graduated ISEF or with a degree in physical education supports the design and organization of motor activity.

MiniSports

Children are often introduced into group sports through minisports, such as the MiniRugby or MiniFootball. MiniSports involve only kids from 6 years old on and focuses on specific sports.

Giocodanza

It introduces and educates children from 3 to 6 years to dance through play and recreational activities. The child is brought to the knowledge of the body through games of imagination, introducing him the primary concepts of dance.

Psychomotricity

It’s a discipline that connects physical activities and mental processes to support the evolutionary processes of childhood mostly in specific cases of disturbes.

Psychomotricity is based on the free play without predetermined exercises, in which each participant enacts freely their wealth of meanings and finds his own way.

It makes use of objects without precise meanings, so that the child can reinterpret and invest them with his personal meaning. For example, soft games, cloth, balls, hoops and sticks. It’s held in private centres under the supervision of specialists and where the environment is carely designed.

The courses are addressed to children up to 17 years and do not have a defined duration. In Milan there are approximately 10 psychomotricity centers.


Gimble course contents

Consciousness

The entire course is developed to ensure that the child becomes conscious of his body, it’s relation with space and others.

Consciousness is in fact the first step and the key factor to develop motor skills, and therefore relational skills.

Storytelling

During each lesson, the child is brought to do the activities with the use of an imaginary context in which he becomes the protagonist of a story. The use of storytelling helps to attract and retain high level of concentration for the child and to involve him in the activities.

Through the sounds, the lesson become a whole thematic environment, a story with paths and goals. The child is the protagonist of the story and the teacher becomes the guide and helper.

“Children love to hear stories, the way of presenting through storytelling always works.”
- Roberta Calizzi, GiocoDanza teacher

Place and objects

The environment in which the course takes place is simple and composed of daily life objects.
Following the theories of psychomotricity, objects are choosen for their non strong meaning, so that the child can reinterpret and transform them in his imagination.

Thanks to sounds, each time the same object is coated by an imaginary meaning aligned with the story of the lesson.

Let’s take the example of “pirates” theme. Every time the child jumps in a circle, it produces a sound of water, thus transforming the object circle into a rocks or puddler

› A ground line becomes the bridge of the boat
› A sheets tunnel becomes the undergrowth of a forest
› A rope becomes the boat in which to move


Activities and benefits

Body / Body

› Walk straight on a line
› Lateralization exercize
› Coordination between the two axis
› Stands on tiptoes
› Stands on one foot
› Gallops
...

Main benefits:
Balance and Coordination

Body/Space

› Jump in circles
› Walk under a fixed boundary
› Jump over a fixed boundary
› Crawl in a tunnel
› Crawl without touching boundary
› Modifications of the ground supports
...

Main benefits:
Spatial perspection and Correlation

Body/Others

› Recognize the group moving particularly
› Move together toward a goal
› Coexist in a restricted area
› Follow the movement of the other
› Circling the rhythm and speed of the group
› Be the helper or the guide in turn
...

Main benefits:
Collaboration and Cooperation


Music

Why music?

During each lesson the music plays a fundamental role.

“We can say that music and movement appear as two apparently distant realities but actually they are closely related: without movement no sound is produced (starting from the movement of the vocal cords) and the perception of sound commonly results in motor response.
The movement includes many rhythmic components such as the pitch, running, walking and endless other coordinations kinetics.”

(Daniela Vigani, 2009)

The music tells a story, catches kids attention and involves them into the activities. Helps the learning giving a tangible output.

“The feedback may be very useful for the development of regular motor (walking, running or jumping). One of the problems of children is the difficulty in maintaining a certain rhythm.
Sound feebacks will make it easier for the child.”

- Anne Marie Aline Wille, Psychomotrician and musician

Music and atmosphere

Each tematic lesson will be based on a specific sound library, composed by two different groups of sound output.

› Background sounds, which serve to bring the child into the reality of the story, to give directives. For example, if the theme is pirates, there will be waves, adventurous melodies, parrots chirps and so on.
› Onomatopeic sounds that respond to children movements. Onomatopeic sounds are closest to the child, and easier to distinguish. Let’s take the pirates environment: a jump over an obstacle is underlined by an adventurous explosion

Music and relationships

It is clear from numerous studies that music is a great tool of cohesion, forms ties and improves the quality of interactions between people.


“To me the clever part of your course
is that it is really connected with music.
Children approach with music is much more strong. It immediatly create relationships.
Children feel so much the atmosphere.”

Roberta Calizzi, GiocoDanza teacher



Sensors

At the beginning of each lesson the instructor chooses the thematic sounds from the library platform.

During the lesson every child will have sensors to the wrists and to the ankles to track body movement in the three axes.

Sensors recognize the movement of the body and translates it into datas; datas are sent to a program on the instructor’s computer and translated into sounds.

The sounds are diffused into the room through speakers connected to the computer.


The business logic

Train Trainers

Our Startup won’t provide the courses itself, but will prepare and support childhood professionals with specific training, licensing and technologies backup to be ready to teach Gimble classes. Some of those instructors will enrich their already launched job with our offer, performing the courses in gyms or children associations.

Besides the course teaching business, a second revenue stream will come from the renting of the products to the instructors. The subscription to the Gimble Instructor Network and to the online platform will allow instructors to have the access to sounds contents and activities updates.

Key Activities & Costs

To provide the aforementioned value propositions, the key activities are: training, Gimble Instructor Network, online platform management and constant content development.

Costs for the Startup will come from the product supply as well as from the logistics and the media design activity.

For the supply and the development of the product we supposed to estabilish a partnership with ©Notch. It is a company that produces wearable sensors designed to be attached to the extremities of the body to track and capture specific body movements. The partnership should be possible because they are planning to release an API to allow third party developers to build out additional use-cases for Notch.

To define the correct exercises, we need the psychomotrician experts supervisions: they already showed interest in partnering with us . Sounds and activities development costs will particularly affect the initial phase.

Training Course

The main goal of the Startup is to shape a professional capable to set the right conditions to introduce kids to sport and promote basic motor skills and new relationship dynamics within themselves and others.
The training program of Gimble is composed by 3 chapters - of 8 hours each- that will be taken in 3 weekends.

The first chapter consist of an introduction to Gimble, the psycho-pedagogical aspects and the fundamental psychomotricity concepts. The educator’s role, the relationship with the music and it’s influence on the kids.

The second chapter goes deep in the Gimble techniques, until the point to elaborate schemes according to the age range. The catalogue of exercises, how apply them and what are the benefits for the kid.

The third chapter is about the usage of the system: sensors technology, platform connectivity and sounds. How to manage the technologies involved to build a one hour lesson.

Conclusions
The potential market of Gimble classes, the brand image, restrictions and licenses.

Theoretical laboratory

1. Introduction to Gimble®
2. The psycho-pedagogical aspects of Gimble
3. Fundamental Psychomotricity concepts
4. The educator’s role
5. The relationship with the music
6. The influence of the music with the kids involvement
7. The program structure
8. The growth of the child: Motor skills - Social and relational skills - Self-confidence

Practical laboratory

› Usage of the system: sensors technology, platform connectivity and sound
› Body consciousness: own body, body-space, body-body.
› Exercises and games based on the sound environment
› Activity’s development techniques

Package

Given the logistic costs of the training course, and average competion prices the price for each costumer is estimated to be around 450/600€.
The price includes the licensing of Gimble Instructor which must be renewed annually at a fixed price (approximately 200/300€).
Additional thematic activities and soundpack updates will be available to be bought trough an online platform.

Considering the actual price of the Notch sensors, the Gimble instructors will pay a fixed rate every three months to rent the sensors for their kids and an assurance service.

The membership to the Gimble Instructor Network will be totally free. The network will provide services such as traditional customer assistance, brand awareness, new market proposals.


design process







Course description

As new technological, social and economical dynamics modified the market, characterising the actual period of post globalisation crisis, it is more and more evident that the role of the PSS designer has to go beyond the possibility of improving the brand identity of a company or the experience about a product. For the first time in human history the tools for sharing knowledge and cooperating on a global scale are not merely in the hands of governments or institutions: they are at everybody’s reach. This fact increases the potential of designers to manage processes once out of their professional field. Not only products, services or places: as never before, designers can “design” people relationships and interactions and through these redefine the way we live, work, travel or spend our free time. Moreover they can do all this by creating new business opportunities and - instead of working for a company - building their own one.

The course aimed to guide the students into the experience of creating a start-up company, through a guided simulation all along the whole Final Synthesis Design Studio.
A general context - sport-related ideas for extreme target users - has been given during the first lessons and the students have been asked to design a start-up within the given scenario, in which some constraints and opportunities had to be seek and framed. Some of the latest technological or experiential breakthroughs have been introduced as triggers to design the new venture.

During the course the students had to face with a design thinking approach each start-up component: value proposition, technical asset, partners and alliances, users, distributive policies, revenue and cost model, communication strategy.

The course structure have been basically split according to four main activities:

diving in designing a start-up, with theoretical lectures about start-up creation, entrepreneurship, designing for new ventures and related design tools (business model canvas, user portrait, etc..)
design methods workshop, where - in a full week workshop activity - the students have been asked to apply some guiding methods in order to set up and frame their “design-problem” and to draw their business venture scenario
prototyping workshop in which students have been asked to develop the proper technology and value proposition of their business venture
market making and fund raising simulations, where the students have been involved in pitch activities to raise money from investors and venture capitalists.

Each group was formed by 5 team members.
During the first weeks we analized the context, collecting, clusterizing and selecting many different case studies.

The first scenarios we framed have been discarded due to unpromising opportunities or constraints.



However, once we encountered the often underestimated problem of shy kids in group sport situations, we deepened the topic even with the help of primary school teachers.

Part of the previously picked case studies provided us the right clues that resulted on the epiphany of the very first draft idea.

Users definition and preliminary
research: shy kids and sports

Self consciousness

Proprioception is the internal sense that tells where body parts are without looking at them. This internal body awareness relies on receptors in joints, muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue.

Before 6 years old the child has to develop the awareness of his body in specific situations:
› he needs to be conscious of its own body and movement to be sure where any body part is at any time without looking
› knows where his body is in space; creates an internal body map to ground him
› knows where are others' bodies in the space, understand his personal area and how to interact with others

After defining the pillars and notions we wanted to teach to kids, we continued looking for different alternatives and already structured ways to do it effectively.

Main concept

We want children to live a gradual transition from their “inside nest” to the “outside nest” world, preparing him to know how to relate with others and cooperate in sport activities.

We apply psychomotricity methodology in a “non-fixed” environment that let him learn through the intuitive method in his everyday live.

We want to use the music as a channel to communicate.




Decisive points

In the whole process we faced mainly 5 decisive points, which determined the
character of the startup itself.

1. Alone/Together

What if a shy kid starts to be into sports, from being alone to be with others?

“Once your child gets comfortable playing with her friend in the house, try a change of scenery—meet at the park, for instance. After a few get-togethers on neutral ground, suggest a playdate at the other child’s home, and take along one of your child’s toys, which will give her a little security and comfort.”

Our first idea was to provide a toy to start practicing some movements in a familiar place for kid, in this case the house.
The parents, who are the people the kid feels more confident with, could help the kid with the setting of the product, lead the movements, and consequentially, increase his consciousness spontaneously.

Issues:
Developing this idea we found that it was very hard to transmit the specific knowledge to parents in order for them to lead the movements correctly.
› The idea was losing the core of the project: give a gradual approach and track the child process.
› To practice teamwork, more kids are needed.

2. Fixed place/Everywhere

Following the previous findings, we added to the system a series of workshops, given every month and headed by our experts to check and analyze the children’s progress.

Parents also would have the online support for questions of the in-house process.

Issues:
› The toy we developed had specific characteristics for the kid to be alone with his parents learning some movements.
Workshops required different technical specificities like the instructions, number of toys, organized sounds and settings.
› o create a familiar space for all the kids we demanded certain characteristics of length, furniture, and acoustic.
› To create a secure environment we needed to reduced the number of kids
› Even if the kids could practice their social skills in the workshops, the track of the progress was not real.

3. Intuitive method/Fixed activities

Knowing that a settled space was needed, we contacted some kindergartens to offer them our system as the first physical education in the early childhood.

Issues:
› Although we have the expert support during the workshops and 24 hours on the platform, their presence was fundamental to follow each kid and to have a personal track
› The intuitive method worked perfectly for kids alone at home, but when the kids were in group they needed a stimulus to interact, some instructions were needed
› The space was not good enough in terms of furniture and time.
› Not all the parents of the kindergarten were interested and able to pay for it.
Consequently, we understood that the intuitive method could be helpful, but only when sided by a series of activities or hints to promote the correct interaction and development of the kids.
And of course all of them to be leaded by the knowledge in teamwork, sport, psychomotricity, movement and sounds of our experts.

4. The right place

After a large research of proper places to develop our activities we discovered that party playgrounds have a suitable furniture and friend environment for kids and give us the perfect moment to interact in a fun atmosphere.

Integrating the storytelling principles we designed thematic party solutions to introduce kids to teamwork and develop social skills, with a T-shirt that tracks the movement.

Issues:
› We were losing the main goal, introducing kids to sport
› Once again the professionality of the tracking technology value was becoming less important
› The market of party solution is already over-saturated.

Bypassing this issues we came upon gyms and we supposed that them would have been a great partner and a new market to explore, introducing kids to sport in an early age.

5. Prototyping phase

We tested 4 specific areas, which correspond to our relationship with expertize, parents, gyms and kids.

What did we want to learn?

Specialist opinion of our activities, professional advices
“Is our proposal coherent and useful for both disciplines?

Partner collaboration and interest of our service“Which partnerships conditions can we have with gyms? What is their perception about our proposal?”

“Which partnerships conditions can we have with gyms? What is their perception about our proposal?”“Do they think our value proposition is different from the ones already existing? How much would they be willing to pay for the service?”

Attractiveness and engagement level of our activities“Are kids really excited about movements producing sound?”

Tools

We prototyped a 20 minutes Gimble course activity.
This activity was based on the storytelling: we selected the pirate theme to dream up a story, which suggested a path for the kids to follow; this path was composed by some of our methodology’s exercises.

We used a sound sampler to imitate the sounds the Notch sensor would produce according to the kids’ movements and our main goal was to test the relation and engaging level of kids.

How?

We set a date on a Tuesday afternoon in MAMI association’s Facebook page; we had two subscribed kids with whom we did the activity.

First, we introduced the kids into the story; once they were involved, we started the exercises one after the other; at the end we sat down and had a snack together.

Every one of us had a specific role:
› The leader: who tells the story and leads the kids through the path
› The helper: assists the leader with the kids
› Sound technician: who takes care of the background sound and the kids movements sounds
› Photographer: registered all the activity, video and images

Where?

The activity took place in MAMI association, which is a nonprofit association of mothers in Milan, made to share experiences, responsibilities, time and friendship.

Who: audience of the presentation

We choose this place, because since the very beginning they have been very willing and able to collaborate letting us do our program in their location.

“I found this sound feedback very useful because it involves into the story and makes easier for the child to learn gaits - such as galloping - or for the stimulation of the regularity in the jump, in which the two feet must arrive together.”
-Anna Merie Aline Wille- Psychomotrician

“I’d like to use this object on the jump research, and the evolution of the parameters of the jump.
If I had the opportunity to study it not only visually but with sound feedback and data tracking it would be much simpler.”
-Anna Merie Aline Wille- Psychomotrician

“Alice is a really shy girl, I was very surprised because she responded and followed the activities pretty well; actually she even played with the other kid”
-Erika, Alice’s mom-

“It would be amazing if we had more sounds! Like explosions, birds and swords”
–Cristiano, child

What worked?

› The story telling and the sound outputs supported the activity and made the kids following all the instructions we gave.
› Both sides of the specialists were really interested in the proposal.
› Parent found really useful and entertaining all the activities.
› Support objects are fundamental for kids to follow and believe the story.
› We had the opportunity to work with kids with totally different personalities and moods.

What did not work?

› Gyms were not really open to collaborate.
› The time we expected the activities would last, was shorter that we thought.
› Because of the short deadline to prototype, we had difficulties to find kids.

Prototyping conclusions

After the prototyping session we identify that the best way to have a control of the progress, be professional and coherent with the methodology should be to structure courses for a limited number of kids, where the trainer can have perfect control of the space, kids and sound system.