'Sad Sally' 'Happy Harry' 'Suprised Sophie'
'Disgusted Danny''Fearful Fred''Angry Annie'
Key of features:
1) In-built mic
3) LCD screen
*Not drawn to scale*
Emotion based characters which fit into the character pods:
What is Emoji-Podz?
Emoji-Podz is a developmentally stimulating product aimed at enhancing and
promoting social communication in, but not exhaustively children on the autistic
Emoji-Podz features six characters (Sad Sally, Happy Harry, Surprised Sophie,
Angry Annie, Fearful Fred, and Disgusted Danny), each based on one of Ekman’s
six basic universal emotions, (Ekman, 1994) alongside an LCD screen, six
separate ‘character pods’ and an in-built mic.
Each of the six separate ‘character pods’ located at the base of the product are
individually activated by one of the six emotion based characters.
The child using Emoji-Podz is required to insert one of the six characters into the
correct individually labelled character pods.
Upon the successful matching of the character with the character pod, the LCD
screen will play a short animated film relating to that specific character. For
example, if the character ‘Happy Harry’ is successfully inserted into the ‘Happy
Harry’ character pod, a film shall be shown on the LCD screen relating to the
character of ‘Happy Harry’, featuring a storyline about happiness and happy
emotions. In the instance that the child matches the character with the incorrect
character pod, an auditory message ‘try again’, is released, encouraging the child
to have a second attempt at placing the character in its correct corresponding pod.
Each emotion based story lasts for a period of 5 minutes, with interludes in the
story where questions regarding emotions relating to the particular emotion are
asked to the child. Responses by the child are received through the in-built mic.
The main body of the product along with the six emotion based characters are
produced from polypropylene plastic, ensuring the product has a long life span
and contains no chemicals harmful to the user.
At the back of each of the six emotion based characters lies an electronic
sensor specific to each of the character pods. Upon successfully matching one
of the six characters to the correct character pod, the pod-specific sensor elicits
the LCD screen to turn on, and play one of the six character specific animated
Emoji-Podz is a unisex product, reflected in the six emotion based characters
made up of three female and three male characters.
Emoji-Podz is primarily aimed at children on the autistic spectrum between 3-6
years of age, however can also be used to aid the social communication
development of typically developing children.
Emoji-Podz shall have a retail price of £28.00, a midpoint range between the
very popular ‘VTech My Laptop’ (£16.99), a children’s learning laptop, and ‘The
Transporters’ (£39.99), an animated video series targeted at improving
emotional recognition in children on the autistic spectrum.
A battery pack is located in the bottom of Emoji-Podz base, with 2 x AA
batteries included. With a length of 23cm and width of 21.5cm, the product is
portable, whilst at the same time large enough for the user to experience hours
Why is Emoji-Podz good for development?
Shortcomings in emotional-reciprocity and impediments in the development of
language skills, accompanied with difficulties in understanding conventions of
language, are core impairments in social communication abilities that are
defining factors associated with the aetiology of individuals on the autistic
spectrum, (Hategan & Talas, 2014).
Early intervention therapy has been shown to be a key proponent in the
improvement of language, emotion recognition, and adaptive behaviour skills in
younger children, (Warren, McPheeters, Sathe, Foss-Feig, Glasser, &
Veenstra-VanderWeele, 2011), improving the ability for autistic individuals to
function and communicate in the social world.
Despite the strength of traditional early intervention treatment, administration of
it often requires parents or caregivers to take a lead role, a commitment which
may not always be practical or viable. The use of a tool such as the Emoji-Podz
takes pressure off caregivers, allowing young children to make independent
progress and improve their social communication skills.
In essence, due to the product featuring both an emotion recognition system
(emotion based characters) and a speech encouragement system (in-built mic),
both core features which make up social communication, it could be argued
that it is both a fun developmental toy, and a product which aids early
intervention in children with autism.
Why is Emoji-Podz good for development?
Emotion recognition capabilities, such as the capacity to determine one
emotion from another is a critical function of social cognition, (Sasson,
Pinkham, Carpenter, & Belger, 2011).
At 4 years of age, typically developing children have the capability of labelling
happy, sad and angry emotional facial expressions, whilst also starting to
develop an understanding of fear and surprise as broader emotion typologies,
(Widen & Russell, 2003).
Despite such advances made by typically developing children in emotion
recognition, the same progression in autistic children has not been found, with
significantly poorer emotional recognition capabilities identified in autistic
children comparative to their typically developing peers of the same age,
(Rump, Giovanelli, Minshew, & Strauss, 2009).
The Emoji-Podz works on developing a core backbone in children’s
understanding of emotional recognition with the use of the six universal
emotions, (Ekman, 1994). The screening of emotionally based short-film
storylines shown on the LCD screen further encourages the development of
emotional intelligence, with each storyline revolving around emotions in a
variety of real life contexts, giving children a broad understanding of different
emotions and their connotations.
Monotone utterances, pitch-related deficits, and deficiencies in vocal
quality, are all observable speech characteristics found in autistic
individuals, (Shriberg, Paul, McSweeny, & Klin, 2001), collectively
understood to constitute features of repetitive and ridged language,
Speech-language therapy is a technique often employed to aid autistic children
in the development of verbal communication, (Tambyraja, Schmitt, Justice,
Logan, & Schwarz, 2014), working on aspects of language and turn-taking,
whilst encouraging children to understand basic conversational cues.
Emoji-Podz applies the concept of speech-language therapy, encouraging the
development of speech by using interludes between each of the short animated
films to ask questions to the user and promote user-participation, with the aim
of lessening the ridged and repetitive speech common in autistic individuals,
(Turner, 1991). Furthermore, the short animated films themselves contain
diverse language features, which will help children not only to produce more
speech themselves, but to understand the meaning of language and language
concepts in greater depth.
Why is Emoji-Podz good for development?
Why is Emoji-Podz good for development?
Ekman, (1994) investigated facial expressions used in numerous countries and
cultures across the world, identifying agreement of six basic universal emotions
(anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise) across both western and
eastern cultures. Supporting evidence for the six of Ekman’s basic emotions
comes from Batty & Taylor, (2003), identifying distinctive levels of temporal
activation upon specific exposure to each of the six types of emotion in young
Through the incorporation of these six basic emotions, the Emoji-Podz aims to
help autistic children successfully recognize them, allowing the same amount of
temporal activation to occur when the children reach young adulthood as their
typically developing counterparts.
The Emoji-Podz works off the assumption made by operant conditioning theory
(Skinner, 1953), that through the positive reinforcement of a behaviour, the
same behaviour is likely to be repeated in future.
The elicitation of the animated video as a reward upon successfully matching
the correct emotion based character with the correct character pod positively
reinforces this behaviour, allowing the child to develop their emotion recognition
abilities, whilst building their understanding that correct behaviours result in
What makes Emoji-Podz so great?
The Emoji-Podz takes a multi-channelled innovative approach to aiding children
on the autistic spectrum and those needing a little more help with social
communication skills. Unlike any other product on the market today, Emoji-Podz
combines both physically stimulating components with technological features to
equip children with core skills needed for the future in a playful, engaging and
Whilst other products on the market aim to build emotion recognition skills in
children, such as ‘The Transporters’ DVD set (See slide 4 for information), and
multi-media based instruction apps which encourage conversation initiation,
(Cheung, 2015) none do so using personalised and relatable characters with
their own back story, of which the user can interact with on a one-to-one basis
through customised voice commands.
Furthermore, the Emoji-Podz questions children’s basic understanding of
emotions through the use of an interactive quiz, acting as the perfect
communication learning companion.
Kids will love Emoji-Podz , and here's why…
Whilst the emotion based characters provide a physical element to the product,
the incorporation of technology in the shape of the LCD screen allows for multi-
platform integration, giving the child a feel for both the physical and
technological world that now exists.
The in-built mic gives children the option to interact with on-screen characters
in a way which is unique to most developmental toys, with a selection of pre-
recorded answers programmed to each of the six characters.
Emoji-Podz is available in either red or yellow, making it a gender neutral
product, with three female and three male emotion based characters which
encourage engagement from both male and female users.
The lightweight nature of the Emoji-Podz makes it the perfect portable
accessory for a child, whilst the polypropylene plastic covering ensures long
Using basic universally recognised emotions, (Ekman, 1994), Emoti-board may
be widely used among all cultures, and is not constrained to one specific
Aimed at children between 3-6 years of age, Emoji-Podz is targeted at
improving the overall quality of social communication in both children on the
autistic spectrum who have lower than average levels of emotion recognition
capabilities, (Rump, 2009), and in typically developing children whom may
benefit from some extra support in recognizing the 6 universal emotions
identified by Ekman, (1994).
In the production of Emoji-Podz, a holistic approach has been taken in relation
to the implications of autism as a developmental condition. Using emotion
based characters to create an appreciative understanding of universal
emotions, combined with the implementation of an in-built mic for the fostering
of speech development, the Emoji-Podz enables users to grasp the core
concepts of social communication, arguably in the style of early intervention
therapy when used at the recommended age.
Batty, M., & Taylor, M, J. (2003). ‘Early Processing of the six basic facial emotional expressions’. Cognitive Brain Research, 17, 613-620.
Cheung, S, C, S. (2015). ‘Integrating Multimedia into Autism Intervention’. MultiMedia, 22(4), 4-10.
Ekman, P. (1994) ‘Strong Evidence for Universals in Facial Expressions: A Reply to Russell’s mistaken critique’. Psychological Bulletin, 115(2),
Hategan, C, B., & Talas, D. (2014). ‘Communication Matrix – An Assessment Tool Used in a Case of Autism Spectrum Disorders’. Procedia,
Rump, K, M., Giovanelli, J, L., Minshew, N, J., & Strauss, M, S. (2009) ‘The Development of Emotion Recognition in Individuals with Autism’.
Child Development, 80(5), 1434-1447.
Sasson, N, J., Pinkham, A, E., Carpenter, K, L., & Belger, A. (2011). ‘The benefit of directly comparing autism and schizophrenia for revealing
mechanisms of social cognitive impairment’. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 3(2), 87-100.
Shriberg, L, D., Paul, R., McSweeny, J, L., & Klin, A. (2001). ‘Speech and Prosody Characteristics of Adolescents and Adults With High-
Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome’. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44, 1097-1115.
Skinner, B, F. (1953). ‘Science and Human Behaviour’. New York: Macmillan.
Tambyraja, S, R., Schmitt, M, B., Justice, L, M., Logan, J, A., & Schwarz, S. (2014). ‘Integration of literacy into speech-language therapy: A
descriptive analysis of treatment practices’. Journal of Communication Disorders, 47, 34-46.
Turner, M. (2003). ‘Annotation: Repetitive Behaviour in Autism: A Review of Psychological Research’. The Journal of Child Psychology and
Psychiatry, 40(6), 839-849.
Warren, Z., McPheeters, M, L., Sathe, N., Foss-Feig, J, H., Glasser, A., & Veenstra-VanderWeele, J. (2011). ‘A Systematic Review of Early
Intensive Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorders’. Pediatrics, 127(5), 1-11.
Widen, S. C., & Russell, J. A. (2003). ‘A closer look at preschoolers’ freely produced labels for facial expressions’. Developmental Psychology,