The BlackBerry Peer is multi-function device with smartphone capabilities, designed in a child-friendly enclosure that is easy to approach and fun to use. The main function of the Peer is twofold. First, for the child, it is a small digital camera with photo, video and audio capabilities that also provides ‘apps’ that enable children to modify (via filters and effects) and share their photos with friends and family. The camera was designed to be portable enough so that children would carry it with them, especially when travelling. Second, for the parents, it is a security device that allows them to find and communicate with their child if they get separated or in the case of an emergency.
I worked with Research in Motion (RIM) on this project and they provided a design brief ‘travel accessories for BlackBerry’. My primary interest was exploring the dynamics of families travelling together and finding appropriate technologies for young children. I discovered some particular problems with respect to travelling with children that I believe the BlackBerry Peer solves: secure communication between child and parent in emergency situations; a decent digital camera designed for young children; a device for travel that doesn’t ‘take away’ children’s attention, but actually enhances awareness of their surroundings; and a way for BlackBerry to enhance their media experience, by adding a source of photos, video and audio to the smartphone and connecting this media to social networks via BlackBerry’s social platform. Finally the goal was to expand the meaning of the BlackBerry experience beyond business.
This was an 8 month project with various stages. The initial stages involved researching key aspects of travel and related technologies. I collected stories and images to create a notion of travel from which I then selected the elements that I wanted to explore. Developing the idea and solving the problem actually was more of a dialogue, as RIM didn’t provide a specific problem. However, throughout the early stages of the project, I sketched and built models to explore forms and interactions which helped guide me. After the product specification had been more or less finalized, I built both form exploration models and functional models—including one with an Arduino and one with a working electronic display. After that, I got the feedback of adults and children, finalized the form, and developed the software for both the BlackBerry smartphone and the Peer. I had the opportunity to use RIM’s stereolithography machine to build a high-quality physical model for the final deliverable.