• Onky : toy that cares.
    Onky : toy that cares.
  • Onky: Ideation Sketched
    Onky: Ideation Sketched
  • Onky: Plush prototypes
    Onky: Plush prototypes
  • Onky: User Test with Kids
    Onky: User Test with Kids
  • The new Onky - ready for market
    The new Onky - ready for market
Onky: toy that cares.
What It Does

Onky is a soft toy that makes monitoring of children’s health less stressful and more fun. Children suffering from immunity related illnesses need constant monitoring of their vital sign and current methods are not pleasurable for the children or their parents

The Inspiration

While interviewing parents of children with cancer, one parent mentioned that she "felt safer at the hospital than at home." This was because, at the hospital, there are people to take care of the child, but at home, the burden of responsibility falls on them. This is especially stressful when the immunity of the child is very low, requiring a check of their vital signs every few hours to detect infections.

This lead to an ideation process for potential solutions to this problem and the inspiration for this particular solution came while watching Disney's Big Hero 6 and its character Baymax.

How It Works

Onky at first glance is designed to be an adorably huggable soft toy. The design was conceptualised to evoke pet-like emotions, something a child could form a bond with and take care of as a companion.

Concealed inside the toy are sensors that measure the vital signs of the child. The first version has two sensors - a temperature and a heart-rate sensor, the two most important measurements that indicate the state of child's health. It was determined that a calibrated infrared sensor would be optimal for measuring temperature and a standard pulse sensor was used for measuring heart rate. The measurements from this sensors are wired to a processor (and Arduino board used for prototype) with a Bluetooth shield that transmits the data to a smartphone. A smartphone app has been developed that receives the measurements via Bluetooth and displays them in a neatly designed interface. The app also allows the parents to keep track of the history and trends of the data.

Stages of Development

When a parent mentioned during an interview that she felt safer at the hospital than at home, it really stuck with me. That's because the home has always been the safe haven for most of us and hospital the dreaded place. But for a parent of children with cancer, home is where the weight of responsibility and anxiety overwhelmed them.

This lead to an ideation phase through which a solution was conceptualised in the form of a toy that makes it easier for parents to measure vital signs of their child at home. This lead to an exploration on the form and functionality of such a toy. The ideas developed were iteratively detailed which eventually led to an early set of prototypes. What started with making clay models soon evolved into stitching plush toys with varying forms and the position of the sensors. These prototypes were presented to children to determine most suitable sensor positions and to test usability.

Electronic prototype using Arduino was built to test the feasibility of concepts with sensors along with an app that communicated with it. Once proof of concept was achieved, the plush and the complementary app has been redesigned for market appeal. The internal electronics are currently being detailed to print an integrated circuit board with sensors attached.


This solution was developed as the current methods of shoving a thermometer into a child's mouth every few hours is not a pleasurable experience for both parents and the children. Other more sophisticated solutions can be less uncomfortable, but still, possess a medical feel to them which rips away from the normalcy they crave. Onky, however, makes this a lot more playful by adding an interactive element to it. The child forms a bond with Onky that allows a feeling companionship necessary at that moment and also provides them with a sense of control. In the user feedbacks, the parents agreed that it would be a lot easier to convince their children to interact with the toy than a thermometer which always had to to be forced. The complimentary app really helps the parents by providing a detailed overview of their child’s health

The toy allows a child to be a child and relieves the parents of stress and anxiety without causing inconvenience to either of them.

Future Plans

The focus at the moment is to build a fully functioning Onky. The plush toy and the app are completely finished and the work is continuing on completing the electronic component that would be integrated inside. As soon as that is achieved, a fund raising effort would follow. There are three strategies for this at the moment:
a) Partner with a healthcare company to bring Onky to market.
b) Raise money through investor to build Onky as a startup
c) Have a crowdfunding campaign to develop and distribute Onky at scale.

All three strategies are currently being evaluated and the best way forward would be decided after consultation and deliberation.


Best Concept Award for the course Advanced Concept Design, part of Masters programme at Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at the Delft University of Technology.