7th: Can kids write a book?

I want to say the answer is definitely yes.

Totally biased opinion: I can’t describe how creative my little one can be. She is truly remarkable.

The other day, I told her I will be working in a different company. BTW, today is my last day of working at Starbucks. Enjoyed my years there, but ready to move on the next chapter.

I told her, the cafeteria in my new company serves unlimited pickles. I can bring you a pickle when I pick you up. (context: I am usually the one picks her up from school and she always wants a small piece of snack after school).

Next, she started talking non-stop with pickles. She always talks too much, which is annoying. People always say it’s better than a kid does not like to talk to people. I guess it’s right. She started talking pickles, making up conversation between two pickles. Yes, you read it right. She was using two different voices talking,

“hello, I am a pickle, my favorite food is pickle”;

“I have a sister and she is a pickle too”;

“you are a pickle, can I have a bite?”

Pretty much like that, non-stop. I was driving at that time, it’s hilarious and I told her, “you should write a book about it”.

I almost immediately regretted it, because she started making up background of the story and more pickles coming up.

It was annoying, but still hilarious; OK, I admit it, it was pretty awesome.


The Pickle Family cover

Once we got back home, she started her project. First, the book cover. It was very impressive, I particularly love the black dots she used, over the green color she chose. It is very pickle-ry.

The Pickle Family – first page

She tried to introduce the background of the main characters, i.e. the pickle family, who live inside a pickle house. Hmm, I don’t know how that will work, but it’s kind of interesting.

Then she made additional 4 pages, so basically it’s a book with 5 pages. The story is about the two little pickles go to school and then get a detention, after home, their parents are mad… but overall, the plot is completely not making sense. Every time we go to a trip and live in a hotel, she loves watching Disney channel (we don’t have cable at home), some of those shows on Disney channel are very off the chart. We just came back from a trip, it must be influenced by one of those shows she watched.


Anyway, now it’s the core of this week’s idea.

I love what my little one has done. It is very rough, strange, and the story is boring; however, I love it. I want to make it a real book.

There are apparently many companies doing it, of course

Interesting stuff. But I notice something: all of those providers are designed for adults. They all just offer the users to upload a picture, and then select materials, finally pay. These are all adult activities.

Of course, there are some other tools seem to design for kids:

But after I gave them a little try, ugh… not sure any child will really fall into it.

When I look at my kid’s book, I can see she put the most effort in her cover page, and then the first page. Later pages became more and more scribbled. It’s easy to understand: kids can be easily distracted, become inpatient, and lose focus and interest. I want to say most kids are like that, except some gifted ones.

The question then is: how do we keep the kids feeling intrigued during their work?


I  am a big admirer of Bret Victor. He is super smart and chill.

His this talk was my favorite:

Two take-away from this talk:

  1. We should have a principle for ourselves, believe in what we are doing and keep doing it.
  2. Seeing what we are working on is very important, because it provides instant feedback.

Both points have made a big impact in how I work.


When my kid was “writing” the book,

  • she was not receiving the instant feedback;
  • she had to do too much: thinking, writing, drawing and coloring;
  • she became tried (aka, bored) quickly after just couple pages;

That is it, we need an application for kids, which will provide instant feedback and keep the kids feeling interested!

I am calling it: I can draw a book

You can tell I am not very creative.


Application: I can draw a book

Settings

  • tablet;
  • stylus;
  • physical keyboard (very important, so kids can learn how to type);

Target Users

At least older than 6 years, who can spell some simple words and use stylus to draw.

Design

The application is designed to allow anyone to create a drawing story book with computer assistance. By computer assistance, I mean using artificial intelligence to help create characters when typing or drawing.

If you haven’t seen it, try something like this first:

https://www.autodraw.com/ 

https://quickdraw.withgoogle.com/

https://magenta.tensorflow.org/assets/sketch_rnn_demo/index.html

Basically, we almost have a certain level of intelligence to understand what the user tries to draw, or predict what the user wants to draw based on text.

Now imagine my daughter is writing a story about pickle family. She is typing (yes, her school is teaching them typing, she seems to like it):

“There is a town called pickle town…”

Computer will try to generate a small model of town, which matches the concept of pickle town, say having a flag with a pickle in it, or the town is all green, and so on.

When my daughter is writing down:

“Papa pickle….”

Computer will generate possible model of a pickle that looks like a man.

If the user likes the computer generated model, they just drag to use it in the book. Or the user can draw a shape of something, computer will generate what this shape might be. The prediction can change if the user keeps adding details to it.

Every model the user has used in the book can be saved to be reused later in another page. In the case the user wants the model to have a different gesture, the user can drag the existing model, starting draw shapes around it, the computer can try to predict a drawing with the existing model.

A quick mock-up may look like this:

If this application is initially designed to be used by kids, it needs to be very simple. It seems to be an interesting idea to run a user study with it.

 

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