Xun combines both a physical and digital interface—the physical interface is a box (or egg) that plays music and voice recordings.

The digital interface is an app that works as a mission control for the music box. From their iPad (or computer), the app holder can create and send songs along with recorded messages.










In our prototyping class we were asked to complete a project with both a digital and physical component; we were also asked to design something for children with the pandemic in mind. My group did exploratory research to discover a problem area that may hit all these marks.

Pretty early in our research we came upon the fact that young children were having an especially hard time adjusting to the pandemic because of lack of social interaction with their peers. Ages 0-2 are fine just interacting with parents/adults but ages 2-5 may need more varied socialization to learn social norms and fairness. 

We also found that children had a harder time maintaining long distance relationships by themselves without the aid of parents—who were already time strapped because of the pandemic. While a lot of time and research has been dedicated to researching long distance romantic relationships, less attention has been given to friendships/familial relationships and how to maintain them—especially for kids.

While text messaging and video chatting were common ways for teens and adults to keep in contact with others during the pandemic, young children were less likely to have the interpersonal savvy to maintain these ties by themselves since text messaging and video chatting are not inherently interesting activities.

Design Challenge:
How might we help kids nurture their social connections and creativity during the pandemic?

New York Times: Will the Pandemic Socially Stunt My Kid?
Research: Channels of Computer-Mediated Communication and Satisfaction in Long-Distance Relationships



How do children make and maintain friendships?

Are there ways for kids to have social connections over the web?

How do kids make networks and interact in person that’s missing from current remote technology?


We did a literature review finding articles and research related to child development, child socialization, long distance relationships, and the pandemic’s effect on children.

Our secondary research focused on three key areas:

- Child development
- Families during covid
- Long distance relationships


We conducted a co-design session in collaboration with KidsTeam, working with kids ages 5-10. We had two co-design sessions in total. In the first session we had two concepts which we wanted them to compare. One was our final concept and the other was called Friend Frame. Additionally, we asked them for any improvements they could think of. It was at this point we downselected to Xun/Music Box. In the second co-design session, we showed them our first iteration of Xun then, again asked for suggestions after spending some time interacting with the digital interface.

The co-design sessions were approximately an hour each, and conducted over Zoom. Each session had between 2-3 children and there was an additional facilitator who was a part of KidsTeam. We recorded the session since only two of our four group members were present for each one. The remaining two group members would watch through the recording and take notes.



Certain age groups have different socialization needs, ages 2-5 need more face-to-face time with peers.


Technology has provided multigenerational connection during the pandemic.


Covid-19 has exacerbated existing social issues and mental health issues.


Kids are most interested in interacting with something that has an additional purpose outside of just social interaction—there should be a fun element to it.

Most of our insights were derived from our secondary research, while we used our primary research to validate our findings and ideate on our concepts.


Every member in our group came up with at least five ideas—20 total—which we then downselected to five ideas before choosing between 2 fully fleshed out ideas. To get from 20 down to two ideas, we had a dot voting system which was preceded by group discussion. We decided between the final two concepts with group discussion again but also input from our stakeholder group during a co-design session.

In the first round of ideation, we didn’t limit ourselves to a specific digital or physical interface, so we had a wide variety of concepts. The only thing we only made sure to keep consistent was our intended user—children between the ages of 5-10. We also made sure that the concepts would somehow provide an opportunity for socialization.

Some of our concepts focused on interaction through creativity. For example, we had an art board which would allow for someone to change the artwork in someone's room with something they drew. We also looked into tactile gaming, where two people would play connect four physically distant but their connect five chips would coordinate to match each other's boards. 

When we were in our final round of downselection—choosing between two concepts—one of our concepts was Friend Frame. Basically, it was a digital picture frame with a person’s avatar. It would be gifted to a friend and the person who gifted it could send interactions and messages through their frame to their friend's frame.

In the end, we decided to go with our music box concept, which eventually became Xun. As the name suggests, our music box is a physical box which can get songs and messages sent to it. There is also an app component where the gifter (in our mind the child) would compose their own music and messages.

Pin People

Games Apart


Time To

Friend Frame

Our Art

Music Box


Our first version of Music Box—which hadn’t been rebranded into Xun at this point—was still quite similar to our final concept. Albeit, much less complex. A rationale for the simplicity of our first iteration was that our group was a team of designers. Some of us had a graphic design background, another had an industrial design background and one member had filmmaking experience.
Two of our designers, myself included, had coding experience but nowhere near the level that would be needed to code out our final concept. Instead we created a simple version of our app that would allow for children to test it out during our co-design session and see what else they’d want included in the app. 

If you’d want to test our original prototype, here is the link.

For context, once you enter the webpage for the app, you will come across the keyboard. You are able to press one square (or key) in each column to create a song. Then, scroll down to the bottom and hit the play button to listen to your creation.




In our final iteration of Xun, the box turned into an egg. No real reason other than aesthetic. We also didn’t necessarily need our music box to hold anything. 


Once a song has been sent to the Xun Box, it will light up to let the Box owner know that they have something to listen to.


The Xun Box owner is able to record and send a message back to the person who sent the song to let them know their feedback—hopefully a positive message.

Digital Interface

Audio Mixer/Keyboard

There is a keyboard/sound miser where kids are able to compose their own simple beats. Unlike in our previous iteration, there is a lot more complexity; you can have more than one note play on a beat and a note can play for more than one beat.

Additional options can be found by looking bellow the keyboard. There are options to add voice recordings, set the tempo/speed and set the volume. It may look like a fairly simple audio mixer, but compared to the previous iteration, it allows for much more customization. We also didn't set out to build a completely robust audio mixer because we assumed that this would the the child's first exposure to one.

Premade Music

Another of the sending options is pre-made music. It’s just as it sounds, there is a list of pre-made songs that they are able to sort through before sending it over to the Xun Box.


Finally, there is the option to record a message. This might be used in a case where the app holder might want to send a happy birthday message—or spam them with a voice recording of the Bee Movie script.

Home page

The Homepage allows for the person who gifted the box to see all the songs and messages they’ve sent to a box. They can also gift more boxes to other people and see the history for all their sent boxes. Lastly, this is where they would navigate to the different options like Create a Song, Record a Message or Premade Music.


IDEAL next steps


We want to complete our working prototype. With our current JS skillset, we were only able to build out a basic interface for music creation. Our design mock-ups have all these capabilities but ideally, we’d want to add more features like tempo, selecting multiple notes, and multiple instruments to our working prototype.


The Xun Box's physical prototype isn’t connected to our app, we had to WoZ (wizard of oz) some of the interactions like the music sending; ideally they would be linked up. Additionally, we’d want it to be fully functional in the way we imagined (twisting open, etc).