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The NorthStar Wearable Technology

Oftentimes, adults are left to guess whether they are providing a sufficiently rich early language environment for their children. In order to provide parents and caregivers with data to help them assess and improve the early language environments they provide, the TMW Center is building an unobtrusive, affordable, and scalable device—tentatively called the NorthStar—that quantifies children’s early learning environments.

The NorthStar is a small device, the size of a pacifier, that is worn by a child. It uses sensors and Artificial Intelligence to capture information about a child’s audio environments. It will be accompanied by a smartphone app that shares information directly with parents, as well as a robust backend platform that supports large-scale data collection, analysis, and integration. It is important to note that the NorthStar is designed with user-privacy as a central tenet and has built-in measures to protect child and family identity and privacy.

Currently in development with support from Schmidt Futures, the NorthStar will initially measure the key metric of conversational turns. Evidence shows that this factor is critical to children’s development of language, executive function, and socio-emotional skills. Measuring conversational turns allows the NorthStar to provide a critical proxy measure of children’s early brain development.