The Incredible World of Electronic Baby Toy User Experience 001: VTech Move and Crawl Ball

  • A ball meant for throwing usually has a soft surface; a ball meant for rolling can have a hard surface. However, having a hard surface does not guarantee the ball will not be thrown; it rather guarantees that someone will get hurt -when- it is thrown. This ball is made of hard plastic. This ball is meant for an infant. Think about your materials, not just for intention but how real users act.
  • The self-rolling presents a weird, uncomfortable mockery of what a ball rolling would actually look like. Maria Montessori espoused the idea that in the early years of childhood, children should be presented with concrete examples of reality. Childhood, ideally, presents safe, small ways for children to experiment and understand the natural world, at a pace of their choosing. There is no need to emphasize the fantastic to babies and toddlers, they are still just trying to make sense of the basics. I wonder what Montessori would have said about the uncanny valley of physics we walk through with this terrible, terrible ball.
  • If your primary method of getting users to engage is to plead with them, you’re doing it wrong. This ball’s creepy singsongs commanding the child to play with it remind me of when I install a new phone app and it starts blowing up my notifications — not even with information that might be useful to me (this is bad enough when not requested), but with simple, Ouroboros notifications to not forget to open the app! hey, open that new app! please please just open the app!
  • If you’re trying to be all the things, you end up being nothing. Let’s just look at only the electronic interface of the ball — three animal buttons, four shape buttons, two lights, a couple tactile fabric tags. The buttons sometimes do different things each time you press them, which also differs based on a “mode” switch located on the ball’s surface. This is a cacophony of meaning and confusion for a one year old.
  • Then you add in the fact that this interface is wrapped around a sphere that won’t stop moving or playing random sound clips. They wanted to create something that would entice a child to move around and chase it. But they forgot that children are humans, and that the most enticing thing of all for a human is a question — and this ball takes away all questions. It explains everything to you and ensures any potential joy of discovery is brief or nil.

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ashley holtgraver

ashley holtgraver

Momming full-time (AKA unpaid caregiver) since 2018. Software engineering & design, UX, synther+singer with @freezepopband, rebel, loner. She/her.