SWIRL is an innovative interactive storytelling platform developed for Google.

To test the platform a project called ‘Treehugger’ was created. Set in a magical forest, it lets kids lead and their parents follow, through a fun filled tale of talking trees, magic wands, fairies to free and riddles to solve.

All software and hardware was developed at FINCH. The platform consists of a 3D printed wand with electronics hidden on the inside, a series of android phones with a custom application, and a hosted cloud server.

We designed and 3D printed different wand concepts which house the electronics. To enable the wands to be able to track motion and communicate wirelessly, we researched and tested different components and board designs to achieve a reliable result. The PCB contained a 9 axis IMU, a GPS module and a BLE chip. We built different versions of the PCB in house so that we could ensure it would fit the required form factor and tried to reduce battery consumption as much as possible. The wands communicated to an android app on a smartphone. The application controlled and updated the wands as they went on their journey. The application utilised text to speech and speech recognition. The biggest complication we had with speech recognition was background noise and been able to detect sentences. All the interactions that happened between with wand and the application are recorded by a backend server. The server software is designed in a way to keep track of where everything is and direct the children using the wands to phones that aren’t in use, this way each child experiences a different journey each time.