Parents! This CU Boulder Startup Has Made The PERFECT Toy For Your Children
Many of us are external processors. We need someone else to help us think through challenging situations or listen when we feel unheard. Putting thoughts out in the open can be tremendously healthy. This is true even for young children as research shows that storytelling is an extremely beneficial activity for developing cognitive, language, and social-emotional skills. This is the inspiration behind an innovative Colorado-based startup, MindScribe, led by a University of Colorado Boulder Ph.D. computer science student.
Founded in 2016 by Layne Jackson Hubbard, MindScribe is a research and design studio that supports early childhood development by embedding smart technology into stuffed animals. With MindScribe, children always have someone who will listen to their stories and encourage their creativity.
The Best World’s Best Storytellers – Children!
MindScribe’s talking stuffed animals are able to engage with children about their 2D and 3D drawings, asking questions and prompting follow-up responses. As a result, the startup solves a major challenge in many classrooms. Rather than relying on a single teacher to interact with all students about their stories, MindScribe’s animals take some of this burden as they can carry conversations with children independently. This helps them develop their cognitive and communication skills when educators and parents are overburdened or unavailable.
Today, MindScribe works side-by-side with children, family members, therapists, educators, and business mentors on projects. Recently, MindScribe collaborated with a Vietnamese family to transcribe a story that their seven-year-old daughter, Mia, orally recited to her stuffed zebra. The team transformed Mia’s story into a book and shared it with friends and family. After, MindScribe worked with Mia’s younger brother, Khoi, to create a stuffed animal that could engage in his first language, Vietnamese!
Combining Academia, Technology, and Childhood Education
MindScribe’s founder, Layne Jackson Hubbard, is a University of Colorado Ph.D. computer science student. Hubbard’s research is supported by the Natural Science Foundation through a fellowship in Human-Computer Interaction. MindScribe’s founding dates back to Winter 2016 when Hubbard was exploring ways in which she could combine her academic focus area with her interest in early childhood education. She found a research paper highlighting a group of researchers who worked with children to co-design new technologies, but found it to be a resource-intensive process. This sparked Layne’s idea for creating stuffed animals that could play this role while still collecting thoughts from children and promoting their development.
MindScribe has already partnered with a number of schools and education centers in the US and in Japan. In Spring 2018, the team worked with the Jiko Nursery School in Chiba, Japan to help children ages 3-5. To date, the company has completed projects with schools in Colorado and California, supporting children, teachers, and parents in many different environments.
Using Technology Behind-The-Scenes
This Untold Spotlight Initiative story showcases an example of a company that uses cutting-edge technology in a subtle way instead of depending on it to attract customers. From its marketing materials to its products, MindScribe’s focus is entirely on early childhood development and education, rather than on the underlying technology. Today, many companies will use innovation as a way to draw customers in without adequately investing in their actual services and products.
As an entrepreneur, remember to inject your business with real substance that can sell on its own merits! Yes, use technology to your advantage. However, understand that you need much more than cool bells and whistles to launch a sustainable venture. For those of you with young children who are interested in MindScribe, visit their website here and send an email directly to the team with your ideas!