Opus Adaptive storytelling

Project: Product Honors: Selected to represent CMU at Microsoft Design Expo

Opus is an e-paper bound notebook and AR magnifying glass. It is able to take things a child discovers during the day and slip them into storytime at night. Opus combines elements of the child's day with a mad lib style of storytelling. The result is a joint storytelling experience that becomes an opportunity for parent and child to discover more about each other.

Microsoft expo presentation

Product video


Imagine a product that shows the potential of conversational user interfaces in a symbiotic relationship with users.


A number of families we recruited to participate in interviews, workshops and observation.


From the research sessions we noticed parents faced a problem in asking about their child's daily experience. Questions like "How was your day?" are met with answers like "ok", that serve more to deflect the question than to answer it. We honed in to this problem with the question:

"How can we enable parent and child to ask a better questions and engage in deeper conversation about the child's life experiences."

Main insights

1) When parents were able to ask a more specific question about their child's experiences, they received a richer answer.

2) Storytime, especially when stories are improvised, is a ritual where parent and child already converse. It is possible to use the content of stories to prompt richer conversation between parent and child.

3) Some parents were concerned about technology coming in between them and their child. However, they were more comfortable when presented with familiar form factors, such as a book.


The experience of using the Opus platform can be split into 5 steps.

Step 1. The child discovers things throughout the day with the magnifying glass. Objects in the glass come alive and talk to the child, telling the child to look for them in storytime later at night.

Step 2. The book provides a storytelling framework, but leaves blanks which parent and child fill in as they read. The act of filling in blanks are an opportunity for parent to both teach and learn about their children. This activity is modeled after actual observed parent behavior.

Step 3. Opus actively listens to parent and child input, and uses its knowledge of story structures to construct plot points on the fly.

Step 4. Objects discovered by the child using the magnifying glass make appearances in the story. Giving the parent a view into the child's personal life.

Step 5. The parent plans the next story with Opus, and is able to ask about the empirical reasoning behind its plot choices.


Expanded uses: Storytelling is a mode of communication not just between parents and children, but between people in general. This product’s use cases can be expanded to help people communicate with each other, or even help single people reflect about themselves.

Business model: We began to explore business model implications by adding a settings page which allows users to choose the storytelling and illustration style of opus, this was done in anticipation of possible partnerships with established authors and illustrators to create more engaging stories for children.

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