App allows users to visualize their words, adding new dimension to classrooms, art therapy | Michigan Radio
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App allows users to visualize their words, adding new dimension to classrooms, art therapy

Feb 7, 2018

You can help kids read books. And you can help as they draw pictures. But an app created in West Michigan blends the two together. It’s called Wimage, from the combination of “words” and “image.”

It’s being taken into classrooms where students are able to combine their imaginations with the app’s technology. And it’s also being used in art therapy, to help wounded veterans heal through art.

Michael Hyacinthe created the app and is CEO of [HAS HEART], a non-profit group that helps veterans through art. Kevin Kammeraad is a children’s book author who, with his wife Stephanie, created Wimee, the robot puppet mascot for Wimage. They both joined Stateside to discuss how the app can help everyone, young and old alike.

Listen above for the entire conversation.

On Wimage’s origins and function

The idea for Wimage started with Hyacinthe’s non-profit [HAS HEART], which pairs wounded veterans and designers. Looking at the challenge of artistic creation for those who have disabilities or who “lack the creative experience,” Hyacinthe decided to create an app that could help people of all ages in the creative process.

Wimage is an app that allows children to visualize their thoughts, said Hyacinthe. A child can say or spell out a word, and the image appears immediately on the screen. The goal of the app is “to empower kids, starting at an early age, to become producers of technology and not just consumers of it.” It allows children to be illustrators and designers.

On Wimee, the app’s robot puppet mascot

“We saw that the tool at its current position is a great tool for education, so we wanted to combine ed-tech with art-tech,” said Hyacinthe. Needing a friendly face for the app to make children feel comfortable, Hyacinthe reached out to Kammeraad to combine puppetry and robots into a mascot for the app.

Their goal was to create a character that used the charm of shows like “Sesame Street” to appeal to elementary school and preschool aged children. The puppet would have to be relatable and playful, “both in the technology and then outside, as a real life experience with puppet and people and kids.”

On art’s power for children

“I see art as a very, very valuable tool that allows our kids, especially kids in urban communities, to understand that their ideas and their thoughts can play a key role not only at home but outside of their homes,” said Hyacinthe. Beginning to think creatively at an early age is key for students developing confidence and communication skills, and the app can jumpstart that development.

Uniting word and image could also prove beneficial for English language learners in school. “The concept of being able to have the image and the word together, we’re working to take intentional steps to even purposefully pursue that benefit even more,” said Kammeraad. The future could also hold new language capabilities for the app.

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