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Immersive Experience, Meditation Ecosystem

Type              Interaction Design

Duration       Fall 2016 | 6 weeks

Team             Ashlesha Dhotey, Lisa Li, Manjari Sahu, Monique Smith

My Role        Research, Storyboards, UX Flow Design, Light & Hardware Prototyping

Tool               AfterEffects, Illustrator, Photoshop, Rhino, Littlebits, 3D Printing


What Is Aurora?

Aurora is a product that creates immersive meditation experience for family via
a mobile app and a belt-like accessory.

What Can Aurora Do?



Aurora's belt projects a pulsing light and plays audio to guide your child to practice deep breathing as a bedtime routine. By inhaling and exhaling in sync with the light, your child can reach a more restful state and be mentally prepared for sleep.





The belt is designed to become part of your child's familiar toy to minimize product presence. You and your child can both engage in the intimate bedtime ritual of synchronous breathing without the intrusion of any additional hardware such as VR headset or cell phone. 





Aurora's mobile app offers a 7 day training module to ease you and your child into meditation. The meditation session length is initially fixed and becomes incrementally longer. Once the training is completed, you can customize the length and other settings for future sessions.


Why We Created Aurora?



How can we improve family's sleep quality by creating optimal bedtime routine for children with sleep resistance issues? 


Aurora uses deep breathing, a mindful meditation technique, to help children rest their mind and reduce family stress before bedtime. These meditation sessions not only create family bonding moments but also establish a healthy bedtime routine that would restore family's normal sleep cycle.






This project is sponsored by Philips Healthcare, who asks the team to design a digital sleep solution in a multi-user context.  



Our team was initially interested in family sleep. We noticed that when children constantly drag out bedtime, parents' sleep schedules are disrupted and their quality of sleep is negatively impacted. In addition, stress and anxiety caused by bedtime struggles are harmful to family's mental health, which might decrease sleep quality in the long term. The team wants to design a solution to help families that have children with sleep resistance issues.





We interviewed 6 families, 2 ADHD children experts, and 1 HCI design expert. We asked questions about emotions and actions around bedtime, successful and failed experiences, children habits and relations with parents, etc. 


We observed 2 families around bedtime and took notes on parents and children's emotions, behaviors, language and interactions.


The team was intrigued by the meditation aspect mentioned by multiple interviewees, and thus reviewed 10+ articles and reports relating to meditation and its impact on children.   




We synthesized all the research for patterns and pain points. We then used these insights to derive 1 main design objective and 4 key design principles that helped guide us during our concept development:

01 - Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is paramount to achieving successful bedtime and restoring family's sleep schedule as it helps children be mentally prepared for sleep. However, parents may have a hard time following through with the established routine or may not even know how to start one.

Therefore, the team determined that our design objective is:



02 - Mindful meditation is growing in popularity among children. It is proved to be effective in helping children rest their mind and increase sleep quality.

03 - Existing relationships, such as attachment with a stuffed animal, or bond with one parent, are always treasured and hard to replace or intervene.

04 - Some parents have reservations about using technology around bedtime because it could potentially hinder parent-child communication. 

05 - Family experiences anxiety around bedtime when the routine is too complex or out of control. 


Holistic Approach to Health - Our design can incorporate elements that have meditative qualities to improve both physical and mental health.

Respect Existing Bond - Our design should maintain or enhance pre-established relationships, instead of destroying them.   

Nonintrusive Technology - Our design should use technology in a way that is not too alien or stimulating to children, and is mainly controlled by parents.

Relaxing Experience - Our design should empower parents in an intuitive way, providing them the confidence and ease to use it with their children.



After several brainstorming sessions, the team selected 4 preliminary concepts that addressed our research insights. We then evaluated these concepts with the Philips team and some of the parents we had initially spoken with during our research.


01 - Collaborative Schedule

  • (+) Its gamification approach could be effective in motivating children.
  • (+) It fosters children's independence via positive reinforcement.
  • (-) Family may not want to use it daily since it requires great effort from all family members, which might cause even more anxiety.

02 - Immersive Story

  • (+) It can be greatly customized to create the suitable routine.
  • (+) Using locations as story triggers can greatly motivate children to go through the bedtime routine and develop independence.
  • (-) The immersive environment might be too stimulating to children.
  • (-) System cost might be too high to be widely adopted. 

03 - Dreamscape

  • (+) Daily randomness of the storytelling experience is a highlight.
  • (-) It has a limited target audience; not all children like to draw daily.
  • (-) Too many hardware components are involved, which could negatively impact the experience. 

04 - Companion

  • (+) It incorporates meditation techniques whose benefits to children is rich and promising.
  • (+) It resonates with the most with our audience.
  • (+) It can be implemented daily by a wide audience.



Based on the evaluation result, the team decided to further develop the 4th concept of "Companion" because it best aligns with our design principles. We then discussed the following 3 questions to further iterate on the concept: 

Q1: How to build emotional bond between new companion and child?

Our 3rd design principle reminded us that children may have trouble bonding with a new toy because they already have their favorites. So we reframed our concept to enhancing existing bond between child and his/her existing toy and decided to design a companion accessory.

Q2: How valuable is data collection? 

Collecting data while child is asleep does not help with optimizing bedtime routine, and it may cause more anxiety for parents. Therefore, we decided to delete this component from our concept.

Q3: What kind of bedtime environment can we create?

During discussion, there was some interest in the use of light as a visual cue for bedtime as shown in our other concepts. So we decided to incorporate visual, auditory and tactile cues to create an immersive meditation environment to further enhance the ritual aspect of bedtime routine.



Our final concept, which is named Aurora, is a product that creates an immersive meditation experience to guide parents and children to practice deep breathing as a bedtime routine. 


The initial system design consists of 3 components: a belt-like accessory, a projector and a mobile app. After initial user testing, the team decided to combine the projector and the accessory to simplify the system and make the experience more natural for children: the dynamic light projected from the belt can be thought as the breathing visualization of their favorite toy. 

Therefore, the final Aurora ecosystem consists of a belt-like accessory and a mobile app.



01 - The experience revolves around the Aurora belt, which can be attached to child’s stuffed toy. It plays audio that guides through the steps of the meditation and deep breathing routine. It also projects a dynamic light onto the ceiling that expands and contracts to indicate an optimal breathing pace for relaxation.

02 - Before bedtime, parent can customize and preview the light projection via the mobile app. During bedtime, child hugs the toy to activate the belt and begin the light projection and the audio guidance for the meditation session. 

03 - By inhaling and exhaling in sync with the light, child can entrain his/her breathing to a calmer pace and reach a more restful state. After the child is asleep, parent can turn off the belt via the mobile app.





The app development centered around balancing between customization and automatization. The initial interaction flow included many customization features such as pattern library and daily diary. After some testing, we realized that giving too many options during a stressful bedtime rush could lead to further frustration for parents. We thus decided to only keep the most essential functions. Based on user feedback, we also added the tutorial and the 7-day training program to help parents familiarize the meditation process. 



We decided to design the accessory into a belt shape so that it is more adaptable to child's toy. The belt is envisioned to be made out of silicon for its softness and non-toxic quality. The belt will have the following functions:

  • A pico projector that projects a dynamic light
  • A pressure sensor that detect children’s hug
  • A mp3 player+speaker that provides audio guidance
  • A Bluetooth Low Energy module that enables wireless control
  • A battery and a charging port



Through research, we found 3 types of visuals that are scientifically or culturally deemed to have meditative qualities. We prototyped each and tested them with users. We eventually chose the 3rd one as it is more children-friendly and effective in calming the child down from an active state during the meditation session.

Sacred Geometry  Symmetrical or concentric figures that have long been used as meditative objects in spiritual traditions of various culture. 

Sacred Geometry

Symmetrical or concentric figures that have long been used as meditative objects in spiritual traditions of various culture. 

Fractal Imagery  Scientific research has proved that fractal images that have a “mid-range” dimension work the best for stress relief. 

Fractal Imagery

Scientific research has proved that fractal images that have a “mid-range” dimension work the best for stress relief. 

Organic Shapes   Concentrating on the morphing quality of jellyfish or lava lamps helps people to draw into a state similar to meditation.

Organic Shapes 

Concentrating on the morphing quality of jellyfish or lava lamps helps people to draw into a state similar to meditation.



Hardware Demo

Littlebits, a modular electronics product, was used to build a functional prototype of the Aurora system. The circuit consists of the Littlebits app, a BLE module, a pressure sensor, an IR transmitter, a rechargeable battery and a pico projector. The demo consists of two sections that simulates parent’s control over the belt via the Aurora app and child’s activation of the belt via a hug. 




We tested our prototypes with a mother and her 4-year-old. The results were promising but we do intend to test out our prototypes with more users. Here are some key insights from our first observation:

  • The child was able to quickly connect the light projection as the breathing patterns of his favorite stuffed toy. He was then eager to try it on other toys to see if they “breathed” differently.
  • With deep breathing, the child was able to successfully calm down from a hyperactive, excited state during the meditation session.
  • During the meditation session, the child looked to his mother for guidance. Her presence could not have been replaced by technology as she remained an integral part of the experience.
  • With the toy being within the hands of the child, the toy (along with the belt) shifted several times during the session. This could negatively effect the visibility of the projection. 

To continue with this project, we'd like to:

  • add new light patterns that target different age groups in order to establish a long-term relationship with Aurora users;
  • explore the possibility of using 3D light patterns for meditation;
  • iterate on the app based on user feedback.