Hacking Smart Toys Week 3

Research Assignment: Find a toy that you like (or dislike) and try to see how different stakeholders talk about it: how is it presented by the creators, how are parents and kids talking about it, does the toy match their expectations, do they use it in unusual ways? Analyze the toy you picked from all the different perspectives and discuss also cultural, SES and age differences in the recounts you encounter. Document and present your findings in your design journal. Drawings, collages or any other way to capture and present your conclusions are welcomed.

I choose to look into slime or flubber, which is not a conventional toy or something I grew up with (I did play with silly putty as a kid though). From what I read, slime was originally manufactured by Mattel in 1976 and made from guar gum. Now slime is made from a combination of sodium Borate (Borax) and water. I both like and dislike this toy, but due to its popularity I have been seeing it a lot. I like slime because I find it fun to watch and listen to, but I also find it to be incredibly wasteful.

Slime is interesting because so many people of all different ages make and sell slime as independent sellers, but big companies sell slime as well. They sell it as kits to make slime, as individual components, or as pre-made slime. It is presented in different ways depending on the creator and the method in which they are selling slime. Slime has extensive combinations in terms of color, texture, and additional add-ins (I don’t know what to call this really, people add all sorts of items into it like beads). Below are some pictures of how slime is presented by different creators.

Slime marketed on the Elmers Website

Slime marketed on the Elmers Website

Pictures of slime kits on google images

Pictures of slime kits on google images

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Kids and parents talk about slime differently. Since slime first became popular, it has been banned from schools because it was distracting the children too much. Kids and teens are selling and trading slime with each other. They are starting businesses where they sell slime online or over social media. Kids, teens and adults make money from slime videos online. After doing some research, there are mixed opinions on slime from parents. Some parents hate slime because it is messy and distracts their children from school. Parents find that their children are obsessed with it and hoard the parents’ resources (i.e. contact solution) in order to make slime. There are also reports of slime being dangerous for containing a lot of Boron, a chemical found in cleaning agents that can cause vomiting, cramps, and irritation from excessive use. But slime can also be educational, teaching kids about chemistry and polymers. Slime is used in usual ways like cleaning and for ASMR. Slime is somewhat sticky, so it can be used to clean small surfaces like the keyboard. Slime is also widely used for ASMR videos because some people find the sound to be relaxing. Slime is popular among children, teens, and adults, it can be dangerous (non-edible slime) among toddlers and babies who don’t understand that they should not eat slime. I think slime is the same in all countries, popularity probably varies based on the country, but there is a limited number of cultural differences that can be implicated into slime (I think). Overall, slime has been a popular toy for a while now. People have started businesses from a simple combination of borax and water, which I think is pretty impressive. I think there needs to be more of a shift in eco-friendly or at least less wasteful children’s toys or at least a more advertised warning of the amount of waste that can be created from making slime.