Huggie Buddies

Bridging the gap between children and faraway loved ones

Product Designer, Visual Designer, UX Researcher
Arsh Saroya, Reine Abubakar, Leana Nakkour, Betsy Todaro
January – June 2019
Seattle Children's Hospital
(Patent filing in progress)
The brief
A doctor at Seattle Children’s Hospital came to us with the concept for a product called Huggie Buddies, which is a stuffed bear for children that provides physical comfort. Loved ones can send a hug to the bear, which will hug the child when they pull the bear close to them.

My team and I designed the companion mobile app that parents use to set up the bear and loved ones use to send hugs to bears. Meanwhile, a hardware engineer created a physical prototype of the bear. Since no research had been done, we conducted some to validate the concept and explore whether users wanted additional features from the bear.
Research findings
Literature Review
Inanimate objects can be used as companions to help children cope with stressors.
Competitive Analysis
  • Most lacked parental controls
  • Prevalence of customizable features
Children prefer to video call their faraway loved ones.
  • Kids connect through show-and-tell
  • Kids enjoy customizable elements
  • Kids like physical comfort
  • Parents value usability and privacy
  • Parents and kids would buy Huggie Buddies
Laying out design goals
Drawing from our research, we determined that the mobile app must meet these user needs:
Focusing on parents
Paper Prototypes
We tested with parents, since they decide whether to buy Huggie Buddies. To get the product to kids, we needed to meet their parents’ needs first.
Usability Test Findings
  • Serial numbers are frustrating and raise privacy concerns
  • Entering contacts manually is inefficient
  • What does a contact’s color mean?
  • Confusing labels
Designing for a second user group
Loved One Flow
In addition to parents using the app, their children’s family, friends, and other loved ones will use it to send hugs to the kids’ Huggie Buddies. This flow shows how those loved ones can send hugs, manage their contacts, and see their past activity.
Setup Flow
For ease of use and increased security, we switched to a QR code for bear setup. Uniquely colored avatars help differentiate between multiple bears managed on a parent's account.
Finishing touches
For the first time in my program, I was able to spend six months on a single project, and somehow, it still didn't feel like enough time. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the opportunity to sink my teeth into Huggie Buddies, and I loved the experience as a whole.

If I had more time, I would conduct research with more participants, test the app with the physical bear, and further refine our visual design and branding. However, the pace at which we had to work was also a blessing. The tight deadlines made fixating on details unfeasible and made us keep moving forward. Since our sponsor was unfamiliar with UX and the design process, I learned how to communicate with a client, keep them updated on my work, and present deliverables. However, my team (Group Hug) was by far the best part of this project, and I am incredibly grateful for my teammates.

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