Blended reality characters.

D. Robert, C. Breazeal


We present the idea and formative design of a blended reality character, a new class of character able to maintain visual and kinetic continuity between the fully physical and fully virtual. The interactive character’s embodiment fluidly transitions from an animated character on-screen to a small, alphabet block-shaped mobile robot designed as a platform for informal learning through play. We present the design and results of our study with thirtyfour children aged three and a half to seven conducted using nonreactive, unobtrusive observational methods and a validated evaluation instrument. Our claim is that young children have accepted the idea, persistence and continuity of blended reality characters. Furthermore, we found that children are more deeply engaged with blended reality characters and are more fully immersed in blended reality play as co-protagonists in the experience, in comparison to interactions with strictly screenbased representations. As substantiated through the use of quantitative and qualitative analysis of drawings and verbal utterances, the study shows that young children produce longer, detailed and more imaginative descriptions of their experiences following blended reality play. The desire to continue engaging in blended reality play as expressed by children’s verbal requests to revisit and extend their play time with the character positively affirms the potential for the development of an informal learning platform with sustained appeal to young children.

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