[ISEA2011] Paper: Tomás Laurenzo & Gustavo Armagno – Enabling Stories


The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program aims to provide each child in developing regions with a connected laptop to allow them “to become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future”.

Uruguay, through its governmental project –Plan Ceibal– was the first country to achieve the ‘full deployment’ status, after successfully delivering a XO laptop to every public schooled child between 6 and 12 years old.

This paper shows the Enabling Stories project, a perceptual interaction based, interactive storytelling application, designed for children with motor or cognitive disabilities, as well as children with normative development, that runs on OLPC’s XO computers.

The application is not only an interactive storytelling game but also a tool for stimulating the development of specific cognitive functions and skills, as well as promoting digital inclusion, and improving social, emotional and motivational aspects on its users.

The art of storytelling in its many forms has been widely used to support the development of a wide spectrum of cognitive functions and skills. Children with motor or cognitive disabilities often experience difficulties using standard interaction schemes.

The interaction with our application is based on triggering actions when the user shows or occludes a printed image within the XO’s camera field of view (usually the space in front of the keyboard, seeable thanks to a small periscope we designed).

Our application models key aspects of the narrative, such as characters, places, possible interactions between characters, etc., and allows its users to construct new stories on real time.

The user interacts with the application by setting scenes up or answering to specific questions. For example, the application would describe a scene by using spoken text, images, music, video, etc. and then prompt the child for information.

A rather trivial example would be: “the girl is taking a hike in the forest, who does she meet?”, the child , then would take one of the images (let’s say, one with the drawing of a dog), and puts it in the space seen by the computer’s camera. The application then continues with the narration using the user input.

  • Tomás Laurenzo is an artist, designer, researcher and computer engineer, born and based in Montevideo, Uruguay. He works mainly in the new media art and human-computer interaction fields, tending to include new technologies in the artworks and tools that he creates. Although he has a rich experience working independently in both public and private sectors –working or having worked for many companies and institutions from Uruguay, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Mexico and the USA– he is now Associate Professor (full-time, tenured), at the Computer Science dept. of the Universidad de la República of Uruguay, where he is the director of the recently created media lab –Laboratorio de medios– of the Engineering School, as well as being Associate Researcher at the Center for Basic Research of the School of Psychology, Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture, Researcher at the National Agency of Research (ANII). Since 2011 he is Research Fellow at Microsoft ResearchHe has also performed artistic and academic activities in several foreign and local institutions including Carnegie Mellon University of USA, Brunel University, West London, INRIA Institute of France, the ALFA academic network of the European Union, ORT and IUAS Universities of Uruguay and Uruguay’s Ministry of Education and Culture, among others. He has publications in the areas of New Media Art, HCI and mobile robotics; his artworks have been shown both in Uruguay and in foreign countries.He holds a degree in Computer Engineering and a Master of Computer Science (done under the direction of Dr. Sergi Jordá, Universitat Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, Spain, and Dr. Eduardo Grampín, University of Uruguay), titled new media art, both from Universidad de la República. He is a PhD. candidate, working under the advice of Dr. Álvaro Cassinelli (University of Tokyo)  laurenzo.net
  • Gustavo Armagno works as as an HCI researcher and an assistant professor at the School of Engineering of Universidad de la República (state university of Uruguay). His research interest involves exploring multimodal interfaces for the purpose of enhancing children-computer interaction and augmenting XO’s (One Laptop Per Child laptop) accessibility.  fing.edu.uy/grupos/medialab

Full text (PDF) p. 1467-1472 [different title]