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Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Social Media for Toddlers

Designers turn a classic children’s toy into a medium for nonverbal status updates.

  • November 29, 2010

Parents who want their children to succeed in life begin training them in the necessities of modern society at an early age. These include reading, socializing, and now, learning to use social media before they’re even able to speak.

A pair of designers have enabled “social media for toddlers” by modifying Brio shape-sorting boxes–the cubes topped with holes that accomodate wooden blocks of various shapes–so that each of the three blocks represents a different common toddler activity, including dinner, teeth brushing and bedtime.

It’s the pre-kinder equivalent of “g’night, Tweeps!!1!”

On their blog, the designers explain the operation of the IOBR with a video:

The actual status update is done by placing the appropriate block in its designated place on the box. For example, an “eating” update is sent by placing the square block with the “plate, spoon, fork” icon in the square-shaped hole on top of the box. This results in the illumination of the corresponding status light on the friend’s device.

Despite its outwardly simple appearance, the IOBR relies on some fairly sophisticated technology to accomplish transmission of tyke status updates from one household to another. It uses an ioBridge module–which alert readers will remember having been incorporated into home automation systems and tide gauges–to transmit signals from the device’s sensors via the web.

Future iterations of the device aimed at more advanced children might use alphabet blocks to allow transmission of more complicated messages.

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