The Evolution of Ava Kai

Stage 1

This was the first prototype for the Ava Kai dolls. The main starting point was their belief in open-ended play. The Vai Kai founders saw this as the starting point. So they started with this childhood ideal rather than the product or the technology. With this in mind they designed a toy that could be fully customised by each child using a selection of different shaped wooden pegs.

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The founders felt that the technology should complement traditional play. They allowed the toy to be opened up so that things could be stored inside.

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One of the cofounders, Justyne Zubrycke mentioned how she was influenced by Machiko Kasahara ideas on ‘Device Art’.

“More recently, interactive art has redefined forms of art and the role of artists. What we call device art is a form of media art that integrates art and technology as well as design, entertainment, and popular culture. Instead of regarding technology as a mere tool serving the art, as it is commonly seen, we propose a model in which technology is at the core of artworks.”
(Kasahara)

As it happens I have been interested in Japanese art history for a long time and the ideas described by Kasahara can, I believe, be traced throughout Japanese art history, that is the ideal that art should also blend seamlessly with everyday life so that it is used not only looked at.

In play sessions with children Vai Kai noticed some differences in the way in which children of different ages played with the prototype. 3-5-year-olds really enjoyed adding the pegs and spent a long time doing this, but this did not hold the attention of older children so well. They experimented with adding in technology, such as using an ipad to hunt for the prototype, but the children seemed only to look at the screen.  In the end it was decided that the Ava Kai prototype was too open-ended.

Stage 2

Vai Kai changed the Ava Kai prototype to focus on character design. They had the idea that this might make it easier for children to then make their own stories and play imaginatively with the toy.

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Vai Kai saw a continuum from being able to create a toy that would allow only one or a certain number of games to be played or at the other end something completely open-ended.

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In the end they decided to skip suggesting a specific game with their product design, as they believe it is natural for children to invent their own games.

Stage 3

This stage saw the design of the Ava Kai twins as the latest version of the product design.

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The Vai Kai website describes the twins as:

“The Avakai family is a real piece of craftsmanship. Made of wood and equipped with Bluetooth and sensor technology, the Avakai twins are specially designed to stimulate all the senses and activate your kids’ imagination without screens”.

Here are the Ava Kai’s current features as they appear on their website:

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But questions remain like do they need to keep the bottom compartment?

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