Over 10 years of research yielded the Koule (“cool”) smart ball, a new robotic toy designed to encourage active play and to aid autistic children in learning emotional skills, among other aims. The Que Innovations team, headed up by Dr. Tamie Salter, has placed the toy on Indiegogo in hopes of finding funding to help finish the hardware and software for it.
The Koule ball has games programmed into it that aim to stimulate a child’s attention. These games work by setting off a series of sounds and lights inside the ball when the sensors are touched.
One of the games, simply called “Colors,” teaches children about different colors. The game has three levels programmed into it. On the first level the Koule will roll around and say the name of the color, and it will spell the color on the second level. On the third level, the toy will tell the child a color and then tell them to pick it up when it turns that color; if they pick it up on the wrong color, the ball will emit a sound letting them know it was wrong.
Another game, “Emotions,” works on a three-level system as well. The object of the game is to teach color-based emotions. The first level cycles through different kinds of emotions, and parents are encouraged to talk to their kids about the emotion the Koule is experiencing. The second and third levels encourage the child to interact with the Koule, in order to coax emotion from it. On the second level, if the Koule is rolled around on the floor by the child, then it will be happy; if it is shaken, then it turns angry, and so on. At this point, a parent can also use their smartphone to dictate which emotion the Koule displays. Come the third level, the child is supposed to learn how their actions affect the Koule’s emotions. If they hit the Koule, it will become angry and it’ll stay angry until they can comfort it.
Other programs include Tik-Tok, which can be used as an alarm clock, and Koule Says, where the toy displays a certain movement and the child is supposed to copy it. A full list of the games can be seen here. Along with “Emotions,” other games can be used with a smartphone. The team hopes that third-party software developers will produce new games and programs to be used with the Koule. In the future, the team hopes to have a program that can aid in autism diagnoses.
Dr. Salter, the brain-trust of the Koule and CEO of Que Innovations, has her Ph.D. in Robotics. She attributes her experience as a single parent (of a non-autistic child) as her inspiration to do something for parents raising autistic children.
“I thought to myself: if I am finding it really hard, I cannot imagine how hard parents of children with autism find it,” she told IQJournal.com.
Her team at Que Innovations asserts that their research aided in the development of the Koule. Sheila, a parent of an autistic child, told the team that the Koule was able to do what other toys and objects could not: attract his attention and get him to connect.
The Indiegogo campaign for the toy has been off to a slow start. At the time of publishing, there is 22 days left and only $1,893 out of $200,000 has been raised. The Perks start out at small $1, to aid in language development, and $25 for a t-shirt. It then jump to $499, for the actual product, through $5,000, to have your name or company logo on the Koule product box in it’s first run.
If the Koule does come to mass production, it is expected to begin shipping the toy in December 2013.