A New Way to Educate

What if toys could educate, interact and communicate directly with children?

This question has been driving our Labs team for the past few months. We started exploring how kids learn and what forms of entertainment kids use — and noticed there were no innovative, inexpensive and truly scalable solutions that could build on top of the ecosystem. We decided to change that.

Built In Austin

How Jackrabbit Mobile is bringing ‘dumb toys’ to life with bluetooth beacons

Estimote

Jackrabbit experiments with interactive toys and beacons at TedX Youth Austin

Phase One

Our goal became clear, enable a new way of learning for kids by enhancing their current behaviors and experiences.

We knew right away that whatever we moved forward with had to act as an extension — to keep the possibilities and applications as truly open and scalable as possible. iBeacon technology was the perfect fit.

We needed to be able to move quickly and efficiently on both the Phone and Watch for this initial prototype, +1 for Android.

After experimenting, we landed on Estimote Beacons — connecting them via bluetooth to Android phones and Android wear. Utilizing these platforms — in addition to gamification and education — we can monitor proximity, heart rate, health and activity statistics, authorization and other attributes we thought would be useful to children when playing.

Testing

After weeks of fine tuning the prototype, it was time to get some feedback on the current state. We ran a user test with a super cute 5 year old named Birdie as seen in the video above. A week later, along with showcasing some experiments in progress — we let hundreds of kids test the prototype at the TedX Youth Austin xLabs event – another short video below:

Technology

From our tests and technical tinkering — we discovered a new world of possibilities. A few key findings can be found below, including iBeacon vs Eddystone and Beacons + Android Wear. For a complete list, we compiled all our findings into a Technical Summary (linked here and below).

iBeacon vs Eddystone

  • iBeacon emits a signal with a unique device id (UUID).
  • Eddystone can emit a signal with a unique device id (UUID), url, or telemetry information
  • iBeacon is more widely used right now since it has been around awhile.
  • Eddystone is very new but looks like a promising option for the future, especially with the emergence of the physical web.
  • We did implement the beacon technology working on an Android Wear only app. This means the app ran completely on the Wear device, and did not depend on the phone at all.
  • We noticed the watch did take a little longer to recognize devices, but was able to constantly search for devices and react when it found a signal.
  • Used an “always-on” wear activity so when the app was open it stayed open and did not close. This is only recommended for apps that need to be open because it takes a big battery hit, but was necessary to continue ranging for bluetooth signals.
  • Android Wear/Apple Watch devices are good fits for beacon technology because they depend on bluetooth to connect to a phone.

Beacons + Android Wear

  • iBeacon emits a signal with a unique device id (UUID).
  • Eddystone can emit a signal with a unique device id (UUID), url, or telemetry information
  • iBeacon is more widely used right now since it has been around awhile.
  • Eddystone is very new but looks like a promising option for the future, especially with the emergence of the physical web.
  • We did implement the beacon technology working on an Android Wear only app. This means the app ran completely on the Wear device, and did not depend on the phone at all.
  • We noticed the watch did take a little longer to recognize devices, but was able to constantly search for devices and react when it found a signal.
  • Used an “always-on” wear activity so when the app was open it stayed open and did not close. This is only recommended for apps that need to be open because it takes a big battery hit, but was necessary to continue ranging for bluetooth signals.
  • Android Wear/Apple Watch devices are good fits for beacon technology because they depend on bluetooth to connect to a phone.

Opportunities

This combination of technology enables people, places and things to interact with each other and gives creators the ability to turn any space into a communication and/or delivery platform.

By leveraging Bluetooth beacons by Estimote [estimote.com], the applications are endless. Some examples of spaces we’ve been tinkering with are:

Interactive Environments: Event Spaces, Museums, Retail, Home & Office

Security: Add an additional access layer using beacons

Geofencing & Tracking: Increase accuracy and reliability with a geofence for tracking when users enter/exit certain areas.

The Next Phase

Next up the team plans to continue improving distance, speed and signal issues that are seen commonly among those using beacons. We’ll also be launching more Labs projects soon — so if you dig Drone and/or VR technology you’ll enjoy what’s next!