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Baby Wow! came about through the observation of Sean, the founderīs infant son. He noticed that when he worked on the computer, Sean loved to come up to the computer and press on the keyboard, even as an infant. Interestingly, Sean would look up at the screen while he did it. After a while, our founder had the idea of writing a program to put images up on the screen when any key on the keyboard was pressed.
Sean loved it!
In discussing the idea with other parents, it was found that they too had similar experiences with their infants and their computers. As an expert in product design, our founder couldn't help but come to the conclusion that the computer could provide an educational experience for infants.
Researching the available software
At first, an attempt was made to find software that turned the computer into an educational experience for young children. Nothing appropriate was found. They were either passive storytellers that were no better than watching TV or they were pieces of software that claimed to be for toddlers but were too difficult for young children to work with.
Researching early learning
When the process of creating the product began, the first step was to gather research in the area of infant/toddler development and to consult with experts in the area. As with any type of research there is debate about how important the first three years of life are. It is clear, however, that it shapes the many aspects of a young person's life.
There is research by Dr. Todd Risley, for example, that proved that exposure to vocabulary was directly related to a child's IQ later in life. Research by others suggests that the language sounds a person can make are also determined very early in life.
Rather than creating a candy cane electronic baby sitter, Baby Wow! was going to be a product that strived to provide benefit to children.
The design goals of the Baby Wow! CD-Rom
The Baby Wow! project was begun. The goals for the product were the following:
To create a product based on what parents want and observations of young children.
Given the fact that the operation of the computer per se is beyond the scope of young children's ability, to create a tool for parents that allows for an enjoyable experience with no computer experience.
To design the content so that both the parent and child can enjoy it.
To Make the product affordable.
To use content and vocabulary that might be out of the child's ordinary experience. In other words, show them a world beyond theirs.
To create a product that didn't assume parents wanted their children to be stimulated in English solely.
To allow enough variability in the way the product works in order to keep the experience fresh.
Rather than creating classic edutainment software, create a product that turns the computer into an enriching activity that is more akin to a See and Say toy than a software game.
Create a product that is a mind builder and not mind candy.
The design itself
The goals resulted in the following design decisions:
Because infants do not have the motor skills needed to use a computer, the user interface is geared toward the parent. They can choose what they would like to expose their children to that day. Once the selection is made, the child can press any key or mouse button and always be rewarded with a sound or image.
Photography was picked as the way to communicate ideas. The reasons were:
Photography is unique in its ability to appeal to people of all ages. This was important in order to make the CD-Rom interesting for the parent and thereby increase the chances that the parent and child will be together when they experience the product.
Since the real world is not a cartoon, it was thought that exposing kids to how the real world looks was a better choice.
Notions such as distance can only be adequately communicated with real world where haze and perspective bring the idea to life.
Audio in 8 languages
The CD-Rom ships with all its audio in 8 languages. This allows the parent to decide what languages they would like their children to be exposed to.
Rather than playing music and entertaining, the software speaks to the child constantly, thereby exposing them to a rich vocabulary.
The design of the menu and the overall look of the product was done with the parent in mind putting them in control of what the child experiences.