Final: Magical Backpack

Group: Allie, Su and Maria Paula

The purpose of the magical backpack is to allow kids to create stories with their pre-existing toys in a newfound way. Using the magical backpack children can play with their toys and enact generative backgrounds based off their actions with their physical toys. Kids ages 6-11 can buy two magical backpacks and a stage for their desktop computer. The backpacks are a certain size so the only requirement is that the toy can fit the backpack.


Kids are addicted to screens. They want watch more TV and play more videogames. However, we believe in the importance of playing with physical toys. Magical backpack aims at enhancing the kids’ play by adding a virtual layer in the background – a screen to be used as scenario for stories that changes according to physical triggers related to the toys, like proximity sensing and motion. In this way, they can have the advantages of both worlds: physical and virtual.

We will build BLE-enabled small toy backpacks that can be attached to any regular toy. They will connect to a BLE central node server with noble module in your computer or a phonegap app in your iPad. The same server would host a browser interface for setting up the play and run the backgrounds. For the backpacks, we will use the Texas Instruments Sensor Tag we are still exploring if we should use Stick’n’Find modules (and do not code the peripherals) or RFduinos (and code them).


If we were supposed to build the hardware (which hopefully we won’t need to):

Bill of Materials:
– Fabric scraps
– Sensor tag $25


Backpack (if we build the hardware):
– RFduino SMT $15
– Acelerometer $15
– Coin battery $1.5
– Battery holder $1.5
– On-Off button $1.95
Total hardware: $35

Mat (if we build an interactive playing field):
– Plexi sheet $15
– Force sensor $7
– Arduino + Bluetooth board.

User Experience (workflow):


Wireframing and Interface:

User Narrative:
In this case we have an 7 year old girl who loves to play with her barbie’s and stuffed animals.  She is used to playing with them in the corner of her living room as her parents watch TV.  She’ll also sometime use her parents iPad and/or phone but only with permission.  She doesn’t have siblings so when her friends aren’t over she oftentimes plays alone. Her parents found “the magical backpack” at the store and thought it might be right down her alley.

When they got home they showed it to her and helped her set it up.  First they unpacked the stage and backpack components. They then went to the website for instructions before they began set up.  The instructions on the screen had a fun story, through it they learned to place the plexi stage over the keyboard on order to have an area of play in front of the screen, and they turned on the backpacks.  They were also instructed to connect their phone via bluetooth and place it in a indentation in the center of the plexi stage.  Once the indicator lights on the backpacks turned on, the web interface confirmed they are all set to go.  With the stage and backpacks set, they were then prompted to choose the beginning of a story on the website.  Some of their options included background, objects, mood, and lighting. After the initial components of the story were chosen the child could be free to act out her imagination on the keyboard stage.  They added both of the small backpacks to her two favorite toys, a doll and a dinosaur, and she was left to play.

Each story has a set amount of actions which will execute different events on the screen.  There is no time limit but depending on which actions the user takes the scene will be long or short. The proximity of her characters might effect the “mood” of the scene, changing hue when her characters are closer to each other.  There is also a button on the back pack which she can push to see what happens. A small vibration might occur indicating an action is happening on the screen.  In this case the bunny she chose appears!  Now as she moves her characters around the bunny is following them.  Making sounds and hiding behind forest rocks occasionally.  She laughs.  She then shakes the dinosaur for him to roar and all of a sudden rain starts to fall, and more bunnies appear!  She decides she doesn’t like the rain and sees a “reset button” on the screen.  Using her mouse she presses this and is back to the empty sunny forest.  On the phone she sees an option to pick out new moods and objects.  She chooses a prince and romance.  Now her dinosaur and doll go out into the forest looking for the prince.  Maybe she leaves the area of play as they excavate the living room.  The stage knows how long she has been gone and when she returns a prince appears saying “Ive missed you while you were away”.  What?  She is surprised and laughs.  The doll and dinosaur dance happily around the stage while the prince sits on a rock watching them play.  He then says good bye and hopes to see her in another level.  She continues to play, picking out different scenarios and seeing what happens.  After an hour she is tired and goes back to the floor.  Cuddling with her dinosaur until next time.

Here are initial software sketches:


Playtest Notes 4/20/14

Software Interface
-distance (mouse scroll)
-background w/ hidden characters (appears and fades)
-login & steps


How will the user start the play?
(at this point all selections have been made via the software and the website is in full screen)

option 1 — “the mat” could have a starting button (RFID or other)
option 2 — Instructions to “shake” toy to begin
(*we are planning to move forward with option 2)

1) We need more hidden characters, some which appear randomly (i.e. not based off the toys)

2) Getting distance (closer & further) from the screen is a very important factor.
Conclusion: have the screen move depending on the distance.

3) Foraging for food
As people played finding food seemed to come up a lot so we are adding that in as an element potentially.
–user sees something on the screen
—they come back and find something there

-Does there need to be an ever present character to talk to them through the experience?
-Does it make sense for kids to be able to swipe between screens?(will they go crazy and constantly be switching through backgrounds?)


Magical Backpack Documentation

Next Steps

  1. Optimize accelerometer reading and responsiveness of the site to the sensor.
  2. More backgrounds, hidden characters, and sounds.
  3. Lengthen the overall experience and add “scene changes”.

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