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Product Design
Published: 12 Oct 2018

Open-Ended Toys Teach Code Through Magical Interactions

Extra
Kano

Children’s toys are being reframed as life-training tools, embracing simplified tech as a catalyst for computer-based dexterity (see also Gen Alpha: Childhood Rebooted). UK tech company Kano takes this a step further with its Harry Potter-branded coding kit, which explores how toys can help develop children’s skills, while fostering a sustainable relationship between child and product.

The wand coding kit comes in four pieces, which children assemble by following a step-by-step instructional guide. The wand pairs with an accompanying app, which allows users to programme spells to be triggered in response to a range of movie-inspired hand gestures. Children code by moving around brightly coloured blocks, with a split screen presenting the JavaScript version of their actions.

The app features a series of games – from levitating feathers to taming fire – that children play using their wand as controller. These actions physicalise the game and offer users an immersive experience, recreating the magic of the popular film series – for more on gesture-based interaction design, see our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Burst.

Kano’s open-ended design allows this sense of magic to be extended outside of the game, with the motherboard able to interact with other electronic devices. “You can use the wand to turn the lights on in your house,” says Kano’s director Aaron Hinchion. “This is something you can do whatever you want with.”

Modular design is key to Kano’s mission, tackling the throwaway culture in electronics. Incorporating no glue or screws, the plastic components can be recycled, with users then able to use the motherboard in different projects – or even craft their own wand out of wood.

Allowing hardware and software to run independently helps products respond to changes in age and interest, as well as future-proofing toys so that they can be enjoyed beyond childhood.

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