Getting a small child to brush their teeth can feel like hosting a nightly WWE wrestling match in your bathroom. But the new icon-based Octopus watch for kids ages 3 to 8 aims to help with this and other daily habits.
The Octopus watch’s Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $231,000 in pledges — more than four times its $50,000 fundraising goal — which could indicate that at least a few parents are seeking help in the instilling-good-habits department.
Actually the Octopus, designed by JOY, has three intended functions. It’s a watch, teaching kids to read time using both digital and analog faces. It’s a scheduler that parents can remote-program with pop-up icons to notify kids when it’s time for certain activities: basketball practice, bath time, feeding the cat. And it’s an assistant, providing tips, notes, and reminders for both kids and parents.
“Studies have shown that children under 8 years old don’t understand the concept of time, let alone remember what to do when a certain time rolls around,” the company says on its Kickstarter page. “We have designed the first watch that helps them understand how parents expect them to use their time. We believe this will help children form good habits and help them to take responsibility for their actions.”
“We have designed the first watch that helps [kids] understand how parents expect them to use their time.”
The Octopus is controlled by an iOS or Android app. It comes with customizable, age-based schedule templates and an optional gamification feature that lets kid unlock badges. Parents can sync up via Bluetooth, program the watch in three different modes, according to a child’s developmental stage (from icon-based to text-based), and there are 600 stored icons.
(Fingers crossed that one of those 600 stands for, “Seriously, no, you can’t have a lollipop. You can eat almost anything else. Please stop asking.”)
Also, two separate phones can sync up with the same watch — or multiple watches — meaning the Octopus system is flexible enough to allow two parents or caregivers to collaborate in programming watches for multiple children, if needed.
The watch itself is available in four kid-friendly colors, and it features a color OLED display. It comes with a USB charging cable and wall plug, and JOY claims battery life is around 96 hours on a full, three-hour recharge. An optional, ghostie-looking cyclops charging stand (maybe it’s supposed to look like… an octopus?) is available for purchase, and doubles as a nightlight.
The Octopus watch is also IP65 water resistant, meaning it can’t go to swim class but it should survive sprinklers and hand-washing.
Xiaomi recently released its own version of a smartwatch for kids, 8-bit the Mi Bunny, but it’s mostly useful for tracking your kid’s location, whereas the Octopus is focused on building a sense of autonomous participation in family routines. In its Kickstarter campaign, the company points out that the watch is useful for minimizing run-of-the-mill daily power struggles and has also been well received by parents of kids with special needs who benefit from extra structure and reminders.
Modern parents know that it can be tough to resist quantifying kids’ lives, and to strike a balance between teaching them to be productive and allowing time for unstructured play. But the Octopus seems like a potentially fun family experiment that could introduce kids to some of the more helpful aspects of technology without sticking them in front of a screen.
The Octopus was developed and prototyped by JOY’s co-founders, Sam Hickman and Omar Alaouf, during a three-month stint with a team at the HAX hardware accelerator program in Shenzen, China. Their Kickstarter campaign launched in June 2016, and the company plans to ship its first watches in Nov. 2016.
Until then, we’ll continue to rely on bubble-gum flavored toothpaste and a modified sleeper hold to persuade our kids to brush.
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