explore my world
We have created an app called explore my world, which encourages your toddler and preschool child to engage his or her curiosity about their surrounding world. This easy-to-use app has both an intelligent camera and an intelligent microphone, which can be activated to view the written terms for your child’s surroundings and for the speech that they say or that they hear around them. The words are presented in a large and eye catching format to attract your child’s attention to the words and, therefore, create a more vivid experience, which will reinforce their learning to read the words. This is similar to how the child learns spoken language.
The app opens on a home screen, and requires an internet connection. It should be noted that all interactions with the app are completely anonymous, and the internet access is solely for the purpose of automated image and speech recognition. You can establish an internet connection in the Settings app on your device.
The home screen shows four buttons, which are guide, help, camera (see), and microphone (hear). Touching the guide button gives these instructions for using the app. The help button should be touched if you are having difficulty with the app. It will advise you to please consult the guide for possible help, or If you cannot find any solution, please email Dom Massaro at Massaro@ucsc.edu
The other two buttons on the home screen give pictures of a camera and a microphone. These two icons occur with the words see and hear, respectively.
When the picture of the camera is touched, the device is in camera mode. The child explores their surroundings by looking through the screen of the tablet and searching for a scene to photograph. There are two buttons on right of the screen: a middle circle button and an X button below it. Touching the X button returns the child back to the home screen. The child takes a picture by touching the middle circle button on the right of the screen. Taking the picture puts the picture on the screen along with an additional check mark on the top right side of the screen.
If the child wants to take another picture, simply touching the middle circle button puts the child back in camera mode.
If the child wishes to explore a picture, touching the top right check mark accesses the internet to find word descriptors for the picture. These written words are presented one at a time. Each printed word for the picture is presented on the screen in large lowercase letters, and the word is zoomed out (made larger) to capture the child’s attention. An engaging whoosh sound also accompanies the zooming to reinforce the child’s looking at the screen.
The written word and picture stay on the screen, along with large say and new buttons that allow the child to hear the word pronounced or to generate a new word describing the picture. If the child touches the large left button that says say, the word is spoken. When the child touches the large button that says new, another word is presented. The child can continue with this picture, generating new words and listening to them being spoken. When the best three descriptors have been presented, the program shifts back to camera mode.
When words are being presented, the child can also return to the home page by touching the bottom left pointing arrow. Touching the left pointing arrow button returns to the previous screen.
When the picture of the microphone is touched, the device shows two microphones and is in microphone mode. The child, playmate, or caregiver can now say a short phrase that will be automatically recognized. To have a phrase recognized, the child touches one of the two microphones, which turns the screen red. When the screen is flashing red, speech is being recorded. At the end of the recording, the screen turns blue and presents the first word in the same manner as in the camera mode. The child will have to touch the new button to see the next word and each additional word. By hitting the say button, the child can also hear the word being spoken. When all of the words have been presented, the screen will return to the microphone mode.
It should be noted that the device does not permit any indecent or offensive words to be written on the screen or to be generated by the device.
The app is programmed on the Amazon Fire, which can be purchased for under $80 including a robust child protective case. The automated scene recognition is carried out by Clarifai, and the automated speech recognition by Houndify.