Whale Rescue


November - December 2019

My Roles

Project Manager

Art Director


Caio Araujo


Mechanical Prototyping

Interaction Design


User Testing

Observational Research

Tools Used

Laser Cutter

Arduino Uno

IR Proximity Sensor



We developed an interactive toy that not only brings joy from simple interactions but also teaches empathy to children. ​


Willy the Whale will opens its mouth and the children will see that he has captured many sea creatures. The children must face the whale's bites to reach into its mouth and save the sea creatures. ​ ​

Shown at the: 

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The Opportunity

How can we sustain the engagement time of children with simple interactions?

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I started with experimenting with different interactions between a human and a physical object and I decided that I wanted to expand on the act of "trying to achieve a certain goal with a fear factor".


I believe that the act of escaping a something fearful and being successful at it can bring a very unique thrill. 


Surprising results from first on-site  user testing


Children played with our toy in ways we did not predict

They would take coins out from the side of its mouth to prevent being detected by our motion sensors, they would drop points from the gap on top of the dinosaurs head, and they would try to force the jaws open with their bare hands.

A simple and thrilling interaction, but how can we provide a positive message within this? 
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Storytelling & engagement

We finalized on the idea of a hungry whale that is keeping sea creatures inside its mouth, and the goal is to have children help save these sea animals. This not only brought a positive message to the toy but also added a layer of complexity by giving a role to the children.

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The 'push-board' mechanism with schematic

Refining the jaw mechanism

The push board mechanism triggers the chomping of jaws using IR proximity sensors. A  board is placed on top of springs and a sensor, so when there is weight on this board the sensor detects changes in light or movement and activates the jaw. 

Initially we only had the sensor to detect changes in light, but this was not as accurate because the area covered would be significantly smaller. 

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Giving it personality

We added more storytelling facets to this toy with fabric/colors, and changes in behavior to make the whale have more personality. In this instance, when you "pet" the whale, it would yawn and allow a greater time span for children to save the sea animals.