Octobo by Thinker-Tinker

Octobo is a smart, cuddly octopus that can sense and respond to players’ interactions through games, stories, and interactive accessories.

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Octobo is a smart, cuddly plush stuffed with our unique soft sensors (that can sense different triggers from players) and connects to players mobile devices to play with our games.

Simply download our app on your tablet, insert the tablet into Octobo and start your adventures! With sensors throughout his body, players can interact as they go through the storybooks. Interactive accessories allow players to experience Octobo’s different reactions and solve puzzle games. Additional storybooks come with different learning themes to lead the gameplay including mini-games that encourage physical activity, promote fine motor skills, and teach memory skills, spelling, and counting. With this new type of controller, the game provides players immediate emotional feedback that teaches empathy and emotional intelligence.

The Challenges

  1. Screen Time: According to research, 85% of kids 8 years and under in the US are using mobile devices on a daily basis, and 40% of kids own their own tablet - and the numbers are growing.
  2. Structured and Unstructured Play: One of the biggest challenges in the children’s software space is appealing to those who prefer unstructured play (LEGO, Minecraft, dollhouses), and those who are looking for clear objectives and guidance (most video games).
  3. All smart toys today have limited purpose and replay-ability, and there’s a big gap between physical and digital play.

Our Solution

At Thinker-Tinker, we create solutions that can transform screen time into quality, meaningful learning time. Our products seamlessly bring the physical and digital world together. By incorporating our mobile device into our interactive plush, Octobo, we change the traditional idea of what we often call ’screen time.’ Spending time with Octobo is more like playing with a physical friend who just happens to have a tablet inside, rather than staring at a screen for hours. By creating a seamless blend between exploratory play and storybook adventures, the style of play can change from minute to minute with Octobo, and every child can find their way to play with him.

Our product Octobo is the first smart toy platform that embeds the phone or tablet directly into the toy, such that the controller, sensors, and toy are one and the same. The platform includes a plush (as the controller), apps and storybooks. Hiding all the complexity of the engineering allows the kids to simply play and learn from their toy companion. The flexibility of the platform allows us to continually sell digital content to the user, either as a subscription or one-off. The power of our platform lies in that we create learning experiences that take full advantage of both the physical (interactive plush, storybooks and gadgets) and digital elements (apps) of the gameplay in a way that seems natural yet clearly superior to previous education. 

  • Version 4: Second Manufacturing Sample with Hardware Redesign

    PlayOctobo04/24/2019 at 23:05 0 comments

    Version 3 was a big improvement, but we needed some cost engineering on the hardware design, and further improvement needed to make the design actually able to be mass produced. We started sourcing our manufacturing partner and working closely with them to redesign the board and our hardware system.

    We further optimized the board (smaller, more efficient) and switched our wire-type capacitive sensors to our special foam sensors to improve stability. The wire sensors were not stable, we got a lot of false positives and the sensitivity degraded over time. On the ME side, we added a couple fixture trails so the plush factory could fix our electronics more easily to the plush.

    We also performed around a hundred user tests using our Version 3 sample. Through the user testing, we learned about the ways kids trigger and interact with the plush. With this information, we fine tuned the sensor sensitivity level, digital game play, and, on the plush side, added zippers to secure the tablet pocket on the product and visual cues for the area that has sensors.

  • Version 3: First Manufacturing Sample with DFM Design V1

    PlayOctobo04/24/2019 at 23:04 0 comments

    We brought the working prototype to a DFM shop to seek support to make the product manufacturable. We worked with hardware shops on PCB board design, schematics, Gerber design, and tooling.

    For the fabric and redesign of the look of the plush, including different ways to fix the sensors inside the plush toy, we consulted various plush factories.

    We proposed a very unique challenge:

    • Our sensors are not just buttons, but soft sensors that need to be fixed in the plush seamlessly, while still keeping the cuddliness of the toy.
    • All the sensors need to be soft and not provoking, including LED, RFID and other sensors that normally are fixed inside a plastic box.
    • We asked to put 11 wires/ sensors inside the plush. This was a unique factor as, normally, the “singing plush toys” have less than 4 wires.

  • Version 2: Handmade Octobo + Self-Soldered Board

    PlayOctobo04/24/2019 at 23:03 0 comments

    After the sensors and hardware needs were defined, we handmade the first Octobo plush with a more compact board with everything soldered together. With this version, we still kept the sensors removable to keep the flexibility for R&D.

    This version is a complete working prototype with all the functions completed. We tested out the interactions with a lot of different parties and playtesters.

  • Version 1: Fluffy Octobo + Arduino

    PlayOctobo04/19/2019 at 18:24 0 comments

    Version one is our maker edition; Breadboard and Arduino model.

    We focused on testing different types of sensors (flex sensor, FSR, and hand-made pressure sensors, foil sensors) and form factor. As well as testing the connection model with PC/ mobile devices.

    For the look, we tried a foam ball, glue gun to stick fabric together for a prototype. We purchased an Octopus plush from amazon and stuck the face on him.

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