GOO: Social networking for babies?

Apparently, it is never too early to start using technology. A buddy of mine at InnoventiveApps is working on a project called “Goo.” They are a small team with a big idea. They believe the trick to creating a successful social networking site is to focus on capturing the “next generation” of users. Just ask any teen, Facebook is for old people (which is apparently 20 yrs old and up), SnapChat is for teens (which, thanks to whatever is in the water, is 10 yrs old and up). But what happens when those teens grow up to be ‘old people?’ Based on the pattern so far, they will not abandon the platform. And this is why each generation needs its own, new social networking platform.

Goo’s early working logo.

That is where Goo comes in. At first, Goo seems like a simple idea. “Babies have iPads in their strollers, so why not let them connect with other babies?” You know, let’s train them for their better, less thoughtful, future digital-selves. After all, research has shown that children who use technology during infancy develop language and math skills quicker than those who do not. I would probably never keep a mini-microwave next to my baby for that long, but hey, if ‘researchers’ yell “SCIENCE!” then I does stuffz.

How does Goo work?

But unlike it’s first impression, Goo isn’t a simple idea. It’s a huge idea. Goo’s user experience actually evolves as the baby develops. Ok, I’ll explain.

In my exclusive demo, I got to see the difference between one user’s account at 8 weeks versus 12 months. This meant over time, certain UI elements and features change and adapt to what the baby can understand. Crazy right?

Now I wasn’t allowed to share many screenshots, but I did convince the guys at Goo to let me share three. Looking at these two, you’ll see what I mean:

Left: account at 8 weeks. Right: account at 12 months.

In both screenshots, we have the same user account. But on the left, at 8 weeks, you can see the UI is more abstract. To be honest, I really didn’t understand how the shapes were supposed to work. So doing what felt natural, I pushed my favorite one (triangle, duh). And with that light tap, the pink triangle underneath increased from ‘2’ to ‘3’! I giggled! What an experience!

At this point I’m thinking, “holy crap, this is totally going to work.”

The app was so incredibly easy to use, even a baby could do it. I think post-release, it will become a gold standard for user-centered design. All the text input is by voice, including search. And this isn’t like wonky Siri stuff, the team at InnoventiveApps really got it right. They even created a complex algorithm that converts the baby’s vocal expressions into short text strings. This allows the user to add tags, perform searches, etc. In their research, the team found that many babies make the same basic vocal expressions, and those commonalities linked together could be utilized as default hashtags and labels. Developers, don’t even try it. Thanks to the collaboration with a few ex-Nuance employees, the team already holds 48 patents related to what they’re calling, “goo-to-text techology.”

And now… Selfies!

As if I wasn’t overwhelmed enough, when I was demoing the 12 month old account, I saw a massive influx of selfies. It was scary-weird. This wasn’t like when society loses its mind over an animal pushing a button. This was a trip.

Not only did it seem that the test-babies were all doing it, but they were good at it. Will we have a Baby-Tinder in the future? We might only be a few duck-faces away…

And yet again, the UI adapts and changes! All the same basic shapes were there, but now something more familiar… A heart, comment, arrow button, and tags! Before, the app was toying with my subconscious and somehow convincing me to pick arbitrary shapes to express interest in abstract point-of-view baby pictures. But now, straight from my Amygdala, I knew what to do — I wanted to LIKE something.

As I went in to tap the heart (because who could resist those adowable wittle baby cheeks), I noticed something… the buttons got smaller! As a UX guy, I instantly got it. The iconography changed in size now that my motor skills have improved. Genius!

But it wasn’t all butterfly kisses and mommy motorboats…

Sure there were little things here and there: bugs, glitches, and uncomfortable transitions. But that was fine, I had my hands on the very early stages of something game changing. The real concern was the on-boarding process. Remember that third screenshot I mentioned earlier? Here it is:

Goo faces a huge challenge, Baby On-Boarding.

Goo faces a huge challenge: baby on-boarding.

So why would the guys at Goo be ok with me, sharing this issue with you? Well that’s the catch.

The Goo team want’s me to ask you, the readers, how would you solve this problem? How would you make an on-boarding process so simple, that even a baby could do it? Assume the user does not have an e-mail or the mental capability of making one, but you need some way to capture the user, including: their name, a username, and a password.

Conclusion

I have no doubt in my mind that the work InnoventiveApps is doing is gound-breaking. And I trust that their evolving UI concept will be a trend for the future… Where I do have doubts is the on-boarding process. With a user base absent of language skills, motor skills, or control over their own bowel movements, the team is up for a challenge that no app designer has yet to face.

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