Kaoru, mother of two-and-a-half-year-old twins explains why she only speaks Japanese to her children.

Baby steps: Ideation insights and opportunities

How we honed in on the opportunity space at the intersection of parents, Voice UI, and cultural diversity.

Chantal Jahchan
Jul 17, 2017 · 6 min read

Each summer Moment creates a research project about an exciting topic we see on the horizon. In the past, our teams have researched self-driving cars, way-finding with Google Glass, consumer-facing media consumption, symptom and medication management for cancer patients, and in 2016, Virtual Reality in the classroom with Peer.

For Moment’s 2017 summer project, our group of designers, interns, leaders, and experts will explore the intersection of Voice User Interfaces (VUI) and first-time parents. We’ll be thinking about how a VUI tool could guide new parents through their child’s cognitive development by adapting to the child’s unique progress and needs.

Synthesizing insights from primary research

We interviewed seven first-time parents, using conjure cards (note cards with phrases like, “storytime” or “returning from the hospital” designed to be conversation starters) to prompt participants to share stories about their experiences. We translated these observations into sticky notes, clustered them into categories, and formulated insights.

Below is a succinct list of our most exciting insights.

1. Parents prioritize activities that they can be involved in because they want to shape who their child becomes.

Parents shared that reading to their child is a very important part of parenthood. We learned that parents consciously choose books that align with the values they want to instill in their child. Parents also shared how important it is for them to enjoy reading. They often modify their tone or the content of the story if it becomes boring after multiple reads.

In addition, we found that many parents play more than just classic “baby music” for their children in order to expose their child to their culture or musical preferences.

Questions based on this insight:

  • How might we offer a tool to help parents teach their child a language without taking them out of the equation?
  • How might we help the monolingual partner of a bilingual parent contribute to their child’s cultural development?

2. Parents are hesitant to expose their child to technology, but are willing to allow it to connect their child to things they value.

Every parent we spoke to shared that they enforce rules to limit or eliminate screen-time because they feel that it is detrimental to their child’s development. Many parents also made a distinction between analog and digital toys, preferring the former.

However, parents said they permitted activities that contradicted their rules. For example, many parents use their phones to FaceTime with family, play music through Alexa, or play educational TV shows because they find value in those activities.

Questions based on this insight:

  • How might we offer parents a tool that can be modified to reflect their own cultural values?
  • How might we create a Voice UI (VUI) tool that parents would be willing to break their technology rules for?

3. Parents view themselves as the responsible party for building the bridge between their child and their culture, but struggle to fill the gap.

Parents view language as a vital building block to sharing their native culture with their child. Without language, one parent said, their child would not be able to communicate with her own grandparents.

“A lot of immigrant parents don’t think it’s necessary to enforce that their kids speak their native language. But what’s lost is not just the language — it’s the connection to grandparents and culture and identity. I’ve always heard parents talking about it as a form of regret.”

Yixiu, mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter

Parents are often the last link for the survival of their native language within their family in the US, and express regret or guilt when that link is broken. Some parents commit to only speaking their native language to their children while others try to enforce cultural traditions in their homes, such as taking off one’s shoes before coming inside.

But the path to raising a bilingual child is full of hurdles. Some parents had to reconsider sending their child to multi-lingual schools because they were pricey. Resources like bilingual daycare centers are only found in certain areas and have long waiting lists. Multiple parents expressed that speaking their native language to their children is exhausting and requires consistent commitment.

Questions based on this insight:

  • How might we offer a tool to support cultural traditions in the home?
  • How might we build a tool that shares the responsibility of the child’s language development with the bilingual parent?

Defining the opportunity space

After synthesizing our findings and defining three key insights we were confident with, we struggled to make sense of the next steps. Naturally, we made a diagram.

Our original pair of opportunity spheres—first-time parents and Voice UI— were strong, but another came into focus. We found that our primary research introduced a third sphere: culture.

Simply put, we were able to redefine our project’s prompt:

Design a tool to help parents transfer their native language and culture to their children.

Product landscape

The final step before beginning to ideate was completing a product landscape. We set out to define the market that our product would be entering and find an opportunity space to engage with.

We created a two-by-two diagram to map out the market.

The horizontal axis, labelled “Depth of learning,” was defined as the extent to which language learning fits within the larger, richer, and more authentic cultural experience.

We defined the vertical axis, “Accessibility,” as the likelihood a parent has the ability, proximity, or means to introduce their child to a given resource or experience.

Next, we mapped out existing products, experiences, and services in relation to the two axes. This exercise uncovered a clear opportunity space at the intersection of “easy accessibility” and “deep learning.”

We now have a clearer path to design an accessible tool that helps parents teach their native language to their children within a rich cultural context.

Stay tuned for more as we begin to ideate, refine, and repeat!

Thomas Carroll, Blue Cuevas, Chantal Jahchan, and Jason Kim are interns at Moment in New York. Thomas is pursuing an MDes in Experience Design at VCU Brandcenter, Blue is pursuing an MDes in Design Strategy at IIT Institute of Design, Chantal is an incoming senior at Washington University in St. Louis pursuing a BFA in Communication Design, and Jason Kim is a recent graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BS in Interdisciplinary Design. They’re currently exploring the intersection of voice user interface and first-time parents. You can follow the team’s progress this summer on Momentary Exploration.

Design Intelligence

Digital undercurrents, the evolution of industry, and the revolution of design, brought to you by Moment.

Thanks to Moment

Chantal Jahchan

Written by

Graphic designer based in NY

Design Intelligence

Digital undercurrents, the evolution of industry, and the revolution of design, brought to you by Moment.

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