Apr 1, 2013

What happens when a 2-year old wakes up to the sound of the Google Map Lady? "I CAN'T turn left right now!"

Google Map Lady says, "Turn Left", toddler yells from the back seat, "I CAN'T..."

If you are new to this blog, you might not know that I'm the grandmother of a 2-year-old little boy.  Watching him grow in an increasingly technology-enriched world has been an eye-opener at times, from his first interaction with my iPad, fingers-and-toes at 7 months of age, to his attempts at rafting down a digital river, playing the Kinect Adventure! River Rush game. 

Technology is rapidly changing how we learn, interact, and navigate our world.  Designers, developers, and others who are involved in the process of creating for the near future must be mindful of the ways newer technologies might play out in the real world, where the "user" is not always the person intended for the "user experience".  Off-the-desktop technologies are rapidly advancing, and impact people of all ages, wherever they happen to be.

Today's story is just one example.

I'm fortunate to live about a 35 minute drive from my grandson, and for this reason, I sometimes take him out and about, especially when his parents have a lot of errands to run.

Toddler with replica of the Eiffel Tower, Amalie's French Bakery, NoDa, Charlotte, NC

Toddler dancing around a floor mural

After a nice lunch at Amelie's French Bakery  near the NoDa neighborhood (Charlotte, NC),  and exploring the floor murals in the little mall behind the bakery, I told my grandson that we were going to the "Big Park" (Freedom Park). 

He was so excited, but within a few minutes, he was fast asleep.

Toddler smiling and happy in the back seat

Toddler asleep in the back car seat
I drove up towards the airport to kill time, thinking that he'd wake up and we'd watch the planes. He was still sleeping.  Now what?

I opened up Google Maps on my cell phone to get directions from the airport to the Carolina Raptor Center at Latta Plantation Park, since I wasn't sure how to get there from the airport.

About 15 minutes later, as the Google Map Lady gave directions, Levi woke up, saying "What's that sound? A lady's voice?". The Google Map Lady spoke again, and said something like, "In 1000 feet, take a left turn." 

Levi replied empathically, "I CAN'T turn left right now!". Google Map Lady responded with the next direction, and Levi replied, "I CAN'T do that!". 

The little guy was visibly upset, because he thought the lady was telling him what to do. It was obvious to him that he could not comply with her request.

What to do?   How do I explain the "Google Map Lady" this to a 2-year old? 

This is how I handled the situation:

I told him that the lady's voice was to help me know where turn so I could drive to the raptor center.  I kindly told him that the directions were just for me, not little boys who can't turn the car because they are in car seats and can't drive. He nodded and said, with relief, "Lady's voice for Mi-Mi, NOT for little boys", and was fine after that.

Although I did not know it at the time, my grandson had somehow wriggled out of the left harness of his car seat. I discovered the problem as I went to unfasten him from the car seat, and wondered how long he'd not been secured safely.  It hadn't occurred to me that this would happen - everything was in place at the beginning of our ride, as you can see from the first picture.  

As I lifted my grandson out of the car seat, it crossed my mind that it would be a good idea if car seats came with sensors to let the driver know if the car seat straps, snaps, or buckles became unsecured. (Systems like Forget Me Not provide a warning system to parents if the child is forgotten in the car.)

After conducting a quick search, I found that Sherine Elizabeth Thomas has applied for a patent that includes the use of a sensor to alert the adult that a child has unbuckled their seat belt.  I think that a system could be developed to provide an alert if the child was not safely secured, as in the case of my wiggly grandson.  

(Self-activating, self-aware digital wireless safety system)
John Polaceck, 3/24/13
Grandma Got STEM blog (More info to come on this topic!)

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