Many children struggle with mental health challenges such as anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Neurofeedback games, like Mind-Full, use portable brain-computer interfaces to help children cope by developing self-regulation skills. These games work by receiving electroencephalographic (EEG) input and relaying that information to users. In theory, feedback may be visual, auditory, tactile, or some combination. In practice, most games are visual. As users gain focus, the game visuals respond on-screen in real time. The reliance on visual feedback can create difficulties in the field—schools are often noisy and filled with distractions, and some children are uncomfortable sitting in silence with adults. Incorporating sound into neurofeedback games could improve usability and, potentially, outcomes. However, there is a basic problem–adult researchers cannot assume to know what sounds might appeal to young users. This prompts important questions: How can children contribute to the co-design of sounds for a neurofeedback system? What sounds do children think would be suitable for each game? In this thesis, I look to children to guide the development and evaluation of sounds for neurofeedback games. I report findings from a co-design study to create sounds for Mind-Full. I worked with 16 children as design partners over five sessions at a school in Vancouver, Canada. I present results from each session, discuss limitations, and review theoretical implications. In this work I find that children can participate in the co-design of sound via ideation, clarification and elaboration of ideas, and evaluation of sounds. The contributions of this work are a set of practical guidelines for co-design with children, an enhanced version of Mind-Full Wind, a summary of the ways in which children can contribute to the co-design of sounds, and insight into the tension between teacher's roles as design partners and facilitators. This work may be helpful for future researchers and designers interested in running co-design studies related to sound.
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Thesis advisor: Antle, Alissa
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