AI Edu-play-tion: The Future Laboratory x FINH

AI Edu-play-tion: The Future Laboratory x FINH

Jun 2024

The Future Laboratory: "Meet the innovators using generative artificial intelligence to re-imagine screen-free educational playtime for children."


A short teaser snippet from our feature on The Future Laboratory & LS:N Global trends review. Please read the full article in the link below.

Drivers: what’s happening

In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association sounded the alarm on a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. Born during the aftermath of the 2007–2008 financial crisis, Gen Alpha consumers have lived their Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) through political turmoil, addiction to screens and social media, and a global pandemic. It is no wonder that youth mental health is now deteriorating rapidly... This could mean their engagement with the world is limited or experienced only through technology, leading to fewer real-life conversations, independent play or exploration.

This is where artificial intelligence steps in. A new generation of innovators are coming up with AI-powered analogue solutions redirecting children away from iPad screens, doom scrolling on TikTok and YouTube, and flat television screens. These educational toys and games that encourage, support and guide young kids through the exploration of their surroundings embody a new age of AI Edu-play-tion.

‘ ASH was designed to provide a breakable boundary for little users, where AI is used in conjunction with real-world play to help children discover and learn something new and useful ’ — Filippo Yacob, Founder & Design director, FINH
AI Edu-play-tion: The Future Laboratory x FINH

ASH, the AI-pocket field guide by FINH

Inspired by the Pokédex, ASH is an AI-powered field guide designed by London-based experimental product studio FINH. It teaches children about the wonders of the natural world through AI, computer vision, and hands-on play, although it does feature a screen.

With biodiversity deteriorating at alarming rates globally, ASH aims to educate a future generation of ecological guardians to protect the flora and fauna of our planet by actively discovering it.

The device works through simple, discovery-led play, a point-and-click digital camera, and an AI model that turns the animals and plants they encounter and photograph into collectible, fact-rich, digital cards.

Analysis: what this means

Replacing passive content consumption with real-life interaction, AI Edu-play-tion devices could be the panacea for Gen Alpha’s screen addiction and shrinking attention spans while also promoting learning.

From an early age, children could develop a preference for tactile, interactive, and exploratory learning environments with artificial intelligence – turning toddlers into AI-literate consumers. According to Alexis Bardini, design lead and partner at FINH...

'AI could generate not only conversations but also real 'magic' for this generation of children. ’ — Alexis Bardini, Design lead and partner, FINH

‘Parenting is so hard. I’d love it if my kids were hanging out with something equivalent to a culture ship in a teddy bear [...] that’s probably too much to ask,’ said singer and tech entrepreneur Grimes in April 2023. California-based toy start-up Curio jumped on the occasion to connect with the mother of three to become the voice of Grok, Gabbo and Grem. Known as AI plushies and unveiled in December 2023, these next-generation Furbys represent swathes of opportunity for parents. Soon, they will be able to digitise their voice too to integrate it into an AI-powered device for more relatability and reassurance.

But protecting kids from AI hallucinations and adult-only answers remains crucial for this market to expand. Curio’s toys come with an app and provide parents with a written transcript of any conversation their child has with the toys. ‘Privacy and trust are always a concern when designing AI products for children,’ FINH’s Bardini tells LS:N Global.

'Privacy and trust are always a concern when designing AI products for children. Getting it right requires turning these concerns into guidelines that steer our decisions. By doing so we increase our chances of creating experiences that feel intuitively safe and leave families free to explore and play without worry ’ — Alexis Bardini, Design lead and partner, FINH

The mental health crisis among young consumers, exacerbated by the loneliness they experienced during the pandemic and increased screen time, calls for innovative solutions to reconnect children with the joy of independent learning and exploration. These innovations offer a glimpse into a future where technology will act as a bridge rather than a barrier, connecting children with the world in a non-invasive and healthy fashion.

AI Edu-play-tion: The Future Laboratory x FINH

Read the full article:

By Gabriela Białkowska
Images: MODEM & FINH
FINH Team: Alexis Bardini, Filippo Yacob


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