Toddler-Friendly MP3 Player Navigates With Light

When designing this custom MP3 player for his grandson, [Luc Brun] ran into a unique problem. He wanted the boy to be able to operate the player on his own, but being only 2½ years old, the user interface would have to be exceedingly straightforward. Too many buttons would just be a distraction, and a display with text would be meaningless at his age.

In the end, [Luc] came up with a very interesting way of navigating through directories full of MP3 files using a few push buttons and a ring of WS2812 LEDs. The color of the LEDs indicate which directory or category is currently being selected: spoken nursery rhymes are red, music is orange, nature sounds are yellow, and so on. The number of LEDs lit indicate which file is selected, so in other words, three orange LEDs will indicate the third music track.

At his grandson’s age, we imagine at least a little bit of him navigating through this system is just luck. But as he gets older, he’ll start to form more solid connections between what he’s hearing and the color and number of the LEDs. So not only is this interface a way to help him operate the device himself, but it may serve as a valuable learning tool in these formative years.

On the other hand, if your goal is just to distract a youngster for as long as possible, an overwhelming number of LEDs, buttons, and switches might be exactly what you want.

15 thoughts on “Toddler-Friendly MP3 Player Navigates With Light

    1. Indeed, my 3 year old can navigate a ps4 easily.

      That is, he understands the movement on the controller reflects movement on the screen, in a entirely different plane of movement. His mum can’t achieve this! :D

      1. Yes, indeed children as small as they are are impressive in their way of appropriating our technologies. But specialists in very small children agree that screens are bad for them. So rather than giving him my old cell phone, it seemed more useful to help him develop his listening skills.

    1. Yes, the link points to a nice object, but it does not have the same objectives as those to which mine responds. The screen is not usable for a 3 year old child and therefore the choice of his reading is made difficult. This is what seemed interesting to me in my study for the ergonomics of the object I made. I had other ideas in mind too …

  1. This is a great idea. I think that all product designers should start out having to design interfaces that are useable with the simplest level of abstract thinking so that way of looking at interaction becomes the foundation of even their more complex work. It is an entire area of knowledge and expertise that HAD should explore further.

    1. If you don’t have kid or yours is teenager or older then go to nearest kids toys shop, or go through Amazon or ebay. You’d be amazed with how many different things for kids there are. My 11month old has few books with sounds she knows that if she pushes on red circle it will play music, some she likes some she doesn’t (she loves boogie-woogie on piano, jazz trumpet and metal guitar, she hates country if i play it the book goes flying lol). For friendly simple UIs you need imput from psychology/sociology/pedagogy/logopedy but its hard to get engineers and especially IT guys to listen to social/human sciences i’ve had so many “psychology/sociology is not science blahblahblah” from IT crowd its frustrating.

  2. Heyyyy… maybe one could build a simple interface for a vending machine that a toddler could use, then one just needs to stock it once a week and you’re good until the car keys verse… ;-)

    1. Yes ;) But this MP3 player should not replace reading accompanied by an adult. Note: the maximum volume and brightness of the LED ring is only adjustable by the parents.

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