For this assignment, each student researched an emerging technology and extrapolated it into a “design fiction.” To be 100% clear, that means (sadly) Listening Bear doesn’t actually exist. The image was created by compositing several different images in Photoshop.
Listening Bear is a device with the ability to listen to, interpret, and publish the creative work of a child. According to the National Institute for Literacy, pretending to read is an important early step in turning a young child into a reader. Other key considerations include print awareness, using illustrations to figure out meaning, and simply being encouraged to talk. Children who are not encouraged to talk often have problems learning how to read. Listening Bear encourages your child to practice these pre-reading and language skills by acting as an “audience” for your child to perform the ritual of reading aloud.
Since children’s stories usually do not follow strict grammatical or narrative conventions, Listening Bear is equipped with advanced Deep Exploration and Filtering Text (or DEFT) technology developed for the Defense Department’s Research Projects Agency. With these new algorithms, Listening Bear can infer meaning rather than parse what is explicitly stated based on part-of-speech or component-based structure.
Listening Bear’s capabilities include Discourse Analysis, which was developed by researchers at the University of Illinois. The bear can determine the temporal grounding of events in the story and create advanced timelines.
First, the bear listens to your child “read.” He may nod or prompt the child to elaborate, but the child always directs and dictates the story.
As the child tells the story, Listening Bear uses DEFT to parse the “deep” meaning and interpret the story, rather than merely transcribe it. He searches for appropriate images to illustrate the story. These images are manipulated and positioned in order to accurately represent the relationships from the story. When the story is complete, the push of a button tells Listening Bear to wirelessly send his data to the Listening Bears’ printing press, where the pages are printed, bound, and shipped to the child.
The web series Written By a Kid “legitimizes” the stories of children by producing short films based on scenarios suggested by kids. Listening Bear makes this process automatic, on-demand, and accessible to any child with the device. Tablets and e-readers are changing the process of learning to read. Many people no longer turn real pages or choose books from an actual shelf. Listening Bear seeks to preserve some of the tangible ritual and “magic” of physical books, so it is important that this device isn’t merely an “app” on a tablet. Listening Bear is a real “thing” with an old fashioned aesthetic. By telling his or her story, the child is not just a consumer, but a producer and publisher of a real book.