Tangible Feedback and Sharing of Emotions through Soft Toy Dinosaurs

Project Description

How can we maintain and build relationships from afar? Students studying abroad – aging parents in retirement homes – best friends living on different sides of the country – brothers and sisters separated for the first time in 18 years. With our schedules getting busier and busier and our lives being completely consumed by the present, it’s important to take the time to let them know that we love them and think about them. How do we enable this to be easier? How can we passively remind users to check in?

This project investigates the interplay between a set of “smart” dinosaurs, embedded with EDA sensing, and a mobile device communicating via WiFi. When one person touches the dinosaur, the other dinosaur lights up, letting the person at the other end know that their friend is thinking about them.

Project Details

Course CS6452 Prototyping Interactive Systems
Date December 2015
Skills Android dev, physical prototyping, nodeJS, socket.io, Teensyduino
Role Individual Project


Initial dino prototyping was done on an Arduino and then transferred over to a Teensy 3.2. The dino consists of an internal skeleton that allowed for:

  • Basic motor capabilities to open and close the stegosaurus spikes
  • LED array along the open edge to display information
  • Speakers allow the dino to roar
  • EDA on the eyes to show your friend how you’re feeling. The LED colors change per your emotion
  • WiFi module for online communication
  • Socket.io to send messages between mobile app and dinos

Mobile Application

Using Android Studio, the app consists of:

  • A graphic that emulates the dinosaur, where you can touch different portions of the body on the UI and the tangible dino responds in kind, such as touching the dino’s mouth on your phone generates a ROAR
  • Socket.io to send messages between mobile app and dinos
  • The ability to connect your physical dinosaur to the internet
  • Uses your mobile location to ambiently display your weather data on your friend’s dino

Open Questions

  • My friend and I were on opposite sides of the world. What is the best UX way to store the message until she can see it?
  • Should there be multiple sound files to access? Is sound necessary?

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