The process of designing Sniff started in 2007 in a 'Tangible Interactions' course at Oslo School of Architecture and Design, as part of the Touch research project which studies user-centred applications of RFID technology. The starting point to design for children with sight impairment was chosen to create a focus on physical qualities and tactile feedback.

Play and sensory stimulation


Playing is an essential part in children's process of growing up. Besides the recreational amusement, it helps the psychological, physiological and social development of children. The importance of the visual dimension in play often limits the possibilities that visually impaired children have to participate in interactions together with seeing children.

Early project research at a competence centre for visually disabled children reveals two main focuses within the field of physical aid material. Material for sensory stimulation is often home-made and customised for specific cases. Tangible technological products are often designed to solve sensory shortcomings, sometimes aiming at replacing senses instead of training the intact assets of the child. This shows great potential in designing interactive material with focus on play and inclusion.


RFID has the potential to enable new kinds of playful interactions in toys. The technology is relatively inexpensive and the small passive RFID tags with their own identity don't require batteries. The tags can be integrated almost anywhere, and bring technologically enhanced toys away from the computer screen. By removing the need for traditional displays, wires and buttons, RFID makes it possible to design in natural materials without obvious technology on the surface.


Many commercially realised RFID-based products have a technology driven aesthetic with visible antennas and circuits. A contrasting approach, to hide technical functions through the use of natural materials and styling, was favored in many of the student designs within the Touch research project.

The retro-romantic trend has been increasingly popular in ordinary toys. This can be explained by a new generation of parents that don't want to be identified with mainstream, mass produced and technologically advanced interactive children's products.


Hornecker, E. and Buur, J. 2006. Getting a grip on tangible interaction: a framework on physical space and social interaction. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Antle, A. N., Motamedi, N. and Xie, L. 2008. Are Tangibles More Fun? Proceedings on Tangible and embedded interaction. Bonn, Germany.

Burleson, W., Frohold, S., Jensen, C. N. And Raaschou, T. 2007. Sprock-it: A Physically Interactive Play System. Proceedings on Interaction design and children. Aalborg, Denmark.

Schmidt, A. 2000. Implicit Human Computer Interaction Through Context. In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 4, 2/3.

Arnall, T. and Martinussen, E.S. 2009. Designing with RFID. Proceedings on Tangible and Embedded Interaction. Cambridge, UK.

Thaler, P. 2003. Pictoplasma2. Die Gestalten Verlag. 133.

Hinske, S., Lampe, M., and Langheinrich, M. 2008. Towards Guidelines for Designing Augmented Toy Environments. Proceedings of the 7th ACM conference on Designing interactive systems. Cape Town, South Africa.

Gustafsson, S. and Preisler, G. 1991. Rapport nr 59, Utvecklingen av lek hos blinda barn under förskoleåldern. Stockholms Universitet Psykologiska Institutionen.

Stapleton, C. B., Hughes, C. E. and Moshell, J. M. 2002. Mixed reality and the interactive imagination, Presented at First Swedish-American Workshop on modelling and simulation (SAWMAS 02).

Rogers, Y. and Scaife, M. 2001. Informing the design of a virtual environment to support learning in children. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 55, 115-143.

McCloud, S. 1993. Understanding Comics. Tundra Publishing.

Hunt, P. 2003. Pictoplasma2. Die Gestalten Verlag. 6-8.

Norman, D. 1988. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.

Randell, C., Price, S., Rogers, Y., Harris, E., Fitzpatrick, G. 2004. The Ambient Horn: designing a novel audio-based learning experience. Personal Ubiquitous Computing 8, 177-183.

Wren, C. R., and Reynolds, C.J. Minimalism in Ubiquitous Interface Design. In personal and Ubiquitous Computing Journal, Vol. 8, 370-373.