The Strawberry computer


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The Strawberry is a computer that has been designed with girls in mind. By creating a computer that appeals to girls, both by its shapes and its applications, we hope to bridge the gap between boys and girls when it comes to using computers.

The design process

The design process began with interviews with people using computers in their everyday work (typically, secretaries and clerks). The intention was to find differences between the way men and women use computers. In general, men's perception of computers were closer to how the machine actually works. One conclusion of these interviews was that those who are expert today users today, started out early using computers. Therfore, if girls could be made more interested in computers, there would be less difference in the future between men and women regarding computers. The next step was to observe and interview children to see how they played, the assumption being that is easier to learn from using computer programs that are funny (that in some way resemble the way children play). Using the material gathered during interviews and observations, prototypes for the computer and its applications were constructed. The prototype of the computer can be seen on the next page.

The physical design

The physical design has been made with a eight-year-old girl in mind . This refelected in both the size of the different parts of the computer and its shape. The aim of the physical design has been to design something that is appealing to her and that she would like to use. The computer is shaped like a strawberry. It is approximately 40 centimetres high and has a maximum diameter of abput 35 centimetres. The top can be removed and inside there is a keyboard and a screen. The body of the strawberry contains the power supply, the electronics of the computer and some device to communicate with other computers. The screen is a touchscreen and the user can interact with the screen using a pen or a finger. It can be used with the computer in any of three modes: attached to the body of the strawberry, placed on a table or on the user's lap. The keyboard looks like a normal keyboard but is sized to better fit the size of children's hands.

User interface

The user interface is a social interface that resembles a child's room. The child can furnish the room itself by selecting furniture and the colours of the room. Applications are represented as objects in the room. During the users tests, children found it very interesting to actually be able to build their own user interfaces. Often, furnishing the room, together with the shape of the computer, was mentioned as the most interesting feature of the strawberry computer.

Applications

The aim when designing applications for the strawberry computer has been to create applications that start from what children do in the physical world. Again, this is to make the computer more appealing to children. The applications tested during user tests will be presented below.

The diary

Writing diaries is popular among children. The diary is an application that only can be started by a person who has the correct passwrod. The user enters text and pictures into the diary using the pen. No character recognition is made.

The face editor

This application allows the user to change the appearence of a human face on the screen by altering hair style, size of the nose etc. Also the user will be able to import a picture of herself into the application.

The geography game

This is a card game where each card has some figures about a country (population, area etc.) and pictures from that country. The user plays the game against the computer and they draw cards alternately, comparing the figures on the cards.

User evaluation

According to users, the strawberry computer has mainly three strong features. The physical design is one of the things that was mostly appreciated. The unusual color and shape of the strawberry computer makes it very attractive for children. Another feature that caught user attention is the interface. The children show great creativity while trying to furnish their own personal room. This possibility to create something unique turned out to be a key feature. The evaluated applications were in general well received by the girls. Ti is worth mentioning the face editor, which was a surprise even to us. Some of the girls became so fascinated by the idea that it was hard to carry out the test in the given time.