MTAGIC Project: Co-Designing intelligent interfaces with children

As seen in our previous research [1, 2, 3], recognition of children’s gesture input is not as accurate as it is for adults, and children have more difficulty with touch interactions. These findings show that intelligent user interfaces such as touch, gesture, and speech can pose challenges for children because the system is not always able to understand what the children meant to do. We are exploring the idea of getting design input from children for designing intelligent interfaces to help overcome these challenges.

We will be getting direct input, ideas, and designs from children by using Cooperative Inquiry [8]. Cooperative Inquiry (or co-design) is a framework of Participatory Design [4, 6] – a method in which the users are a part of the design process – specially intended for design of children’s technology with children as partners. Cooperative Inquiry consists of adults and children working together as design partners on technology design. Cooperative Inquiry was defined by Allison Druin [5], and she has pioneered co-designing with children with KidsTeam at the University of Maryland. We will use different Participatory Design techniques such as low tech prototyping with Bags of Stuff and Layered Elaboration [6, 7]. Our current plan is that the children will take part in the co-design sessions over a six week period, and we have been creating and iterating over our plans for design activities for each session.

We are collaborating with Jason Yip from University of Washington on this project. Jason is the director of KidsTeam UW, where he is co-designing new technologies with children and families.

Our overall goal is to design technology that is tailored towards children to optimize their interactions, and to gain knowledge on how children conceptualize and interact with intelligent interfaces.
This project has been a learning experience for me because it is the first project I have designed.

It has been a long process from taking the idea of co-designing intelligent interfaces with children to developing a full plan for each session. Recruiting for the study has also been a challenge due to it requiring a six week commitment, but it has helped me to better understand the entire process of running a project. I am excited to run this project and designing the project has made me want to pursue research and a graduate degree.


1. Julia Woodward, Alex Shaw, Annie Luc, Brittany Craig, Juthika Das, Phillip Hall, Jr., Akshay Holla, Germaine Irwin, Danielle Sikich, Quincy Brown, and Lisa Anthony. 2016. Characterizing How Interface Complexity Affects Children’s Touchscreen Interactions. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1921-1933.

2. Alex Shaw and Lisa Anthony. 2016. Toward a Systematic Understanding of Children’s Touchscreen Gestures. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1752-1759.

3. Lisa Anthony, Quincy Brown, Jaye Nias, Berthel Tate, and Shreya Mohan. 2012. Interaction and recognition challenges in interpreting children’s touch and gesture input on mobile devices. InProceedings of the 2012 ACM international conference on Interactive tabletops and surfaces (ITS ’12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 225-234.

4. Greenbaum, J. (1993). A design of one’s own: Toward participatory design in the United States. D. Schuler, & A. Namioka (Eds.), Participatory design: Principles and practices (pp. 27-37). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

5. Allison Druin. 1999. Cooperative inquiry: developing new technologies for children with children. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’99). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 592-599.

6. Greg Walsh, Elizabeth Foss, Jason Yip, and Allison Druin. 2013. FACIT PD: a framework for analysis and creation of intergenerational techniques for participatory design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2893-2902.

7. Greg Walsh, Alison Druin, Mona Leigh Guha, Elizabeth Foss, Evan Golub, Leshell Hatley, Elizabeth Bonsignore, and Sonia Franckel. 2010. Layered elaboration: a new technique for co-design with children. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’10). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1237-1240.

8. Druin, A. (2002). The Role of Children in the Design of New Technology. Behaviour and Information Technology, 21(1), pp. 1–25.