Eunoia is a box, a multi-sensory cube, a toy designed to use synesthesia and stimulate different senses. It is completely DIY and it’s based on open technology. The toy was conceived to be used by autistic children, but every child can have fun with it.
Phase 1: The idea
The idea of a toy designed for autistic children came after an Arduino boot-camp on September 2015 where we learned how to code, how to wire and how to design simple projects usingthe Arduino board. During this phase, the project was not yet a toy, but it was already synesthetic: it measured sound frequency and transformed it into visual feedback in the form of LEDs.
While making the project, one of the uses we thought for the project was a toy. This idea received wide positive feedback during the project’s presentation. We were encouraged to develop it further, into a more complex artifact. We decided that we wanted to make a toy. And so we started thinking on other ideas that could improve our prototype.
Phase 2: The brainstorm
To begin with, we wanted to build atoy which would trigger children’s curiosity and encourage their learning experience through hands-on exploration and discovery, always inspired by Maria Montessori pedagogical approach. This is why we came up with a multitude of ideas on the sensory activities that we would probably integrated to our cube. As for the technical part, coding was an obstacle for us. Neither of the team members has much experience with coding languages. And it was our first time using an Arduino board. We decided to make strength out of this weakness and drove the project to have only essential use of Arduino technology. Focusing, instead, on other methods of achieving synesthesia without the use of computers. We started looking at what conventional toys have been doing for many years. We went old school.
The toy went through a brainstorm phase. Ideascame and went. It was going to be a house, it could contain chiptunes, and it could be made with other materials. We also brainstormed on other possibilities of synesthesia, but decided to focus on stimulating three senses: hearing, seeing and touching. We thought of colors and surfaces, we thought of puzzles. Finally, we thought of a name: Eunoia, a Greek word meaning well mind or beautiful thinking, and the shortest word in English language to include all five vowels. A synonym of wellness and inclusion. Then, we sat down and started drafting the final design.
Phase 3: The toy
The toy is a cube. Each one of the six faces of the cube has a purpose. And each is made to stimulate at least one sense. It has a puzzle, it has beads, and it has our original sound-to-LED experiment to measure wave frequency. Another face includes a space for the name of the child, and another one includes symbols for the senses stimulated by the toy: and ear, an eye, a hand. It has a USB-port and can work as a music box.
The toy is also DIY, a simple, unbuilt wooden box with dents to be pasted. We decided to brand it as DIY to promote interaction between parents and children. The child be able to build part of the box, but not entirely, and parent and child will have to sit together to finish it. It is also highlycustomizable. We include all the equipment to build the box, including the Arduino hardware with the code and a battery to keep it working. But every element can be placed and ordered as the parent or the child wishes. Even the Arduino can be hacked to do other things if any of the parents have knowledge of coding language!