The more words a toddler is exposed to, the better are the chances he or she will have have social, emotional and intellectual success (in other words, a higher IQ). This process should start before the child can even talk back, according to research carried out over the last 30 years by human intelligence experts. These findings have inspired a Palo-Alto (CA) company called Versame to develop a new gadget to help parents maximize their little one's lexical exposure.
Starling is the name of the design, which was conceived as a clip-on word-tracking unit with a level of cuteness appropriate for its expected market of children up to 4 years of age, and works in any language. It's attached to clothing, and a set of attachment options adds flexibility to how it's worn. When it is removed, it can be placed back on its charging dock (its creators say that the battery should be good for about 5 days before needing a recharge).
Parents set a word-count goal and a green/red light will let them know whether the youngster has uttered or heard the target number of words or not. Parents can press the Starling button any time to check on progress. For the sake of privacy, the unit does not record spoken words, only counts them.
A proprietary companion app (currently iOS only) allows parents to connect with the waterproof Starling device over Bluetooth LE, and analyse a child's word exposure levels. Versame says that 10 minutes worth of conversation every day day can make a positive difference to a child's development, but for those rare occasions when parents simply can't think of anything to say, the app can suggest age-appropriate lexical activities.
The team is currently fundraising on Indiegogo and reached its US$30,000 funding goal in only 15 hours. At the time of writing, early bird pledges of $129 are still showing as available for a single Startling device, a base charge and cables, three attachment accessories and the free companion app. If it all goes according to plan, shipping is estimated to start in April 2016.
The video below shows creators and testers talking about the Starling.