By Karo Castro-Wunsch, Tommy Ting and Feng Yuan

John is a squishable stress relief toy to help people who have trouble focusing by relieving nervous energy or stress.

Circuit Layout


Code iS HERE

Supporting Visuals

img_5382 img_5383-2


Process Journal

Day 01 [2017.09.22]: Madlibs

We selected the words Squishy, Plastic, Vibration and Slider.


Day 02 [2017.09.29]: Mindmapping & Sketching

Idea 1: Facial Massager


This is an idea for a plastic vibrating facial roller massager. The idea is that you could adjust the the temperature as well as the vibration to massage your face. Many facial rollers exist on the Asian beauty market and they claim to help stimulation and production of collagen, release lymph nodes and brighten skin among other benefits.

Idea 2: Inflatable


We had an idea of a vibrating inflatable toy but it didn’t go anywhere beyond its conception.

Idea 3:  Stress Relief Ball


Our final idea is adding the vibration motor into a stress relief ball. Using the slider to adjust the intense of the vibration. Squishable toys are already available on the market and we wanted to enhance its stress relief properties by adding vibration.

We decided to explore the idea of a squishable stress relief toy further…


Day 03 [2017.10.01]: Material Research in dollar store, prototype build-up and user testing

22171737_10155490764672559_1838050341_o 22199074_884847911668385_1307389229_o

We did some research and visited different dollar stores in Chinatown. We found a squishable toy at Dollarama and decided to purchase a few to play around and alter with. After passing around the toy among the group and playing with it during our brainstorming session, we decided to call it John.

After placing the vibration motor inside John, we were still faced with the challenge of where to place the slider. We tried different options such as attaching it to another squishable toy external to John or on a box.

img_5371 img_5373

We did some user testings and found that if the slider was external to John it made the interaction with John awkward so we decided to attach the slider in John. After another round of user testing, we found that the slider worked much more intuitively when placed inside John.

Day 04[2017.10.03]: Polish Code

The initial code we were using with didn’t turn the vibration off completely when slid to one side of the slider. We figured it would be a good idea to be able to turn off john when the user gets too satisfied or relaxed. We added a bit of logic to turn off the vibrator when the slider is completely to one side. 

Day 05[2017.10.05]: Creating a carrier pouch for John and research.

We wanted a elegant and sophisticated way to conceal all the wires and housing unit for John. We visited Raza in the Makerlab and he suggested creating a wooden box. We didn’t think wood was a suitable material for John since it is a squishy toy and the contrast would be too stark. The idea of fabric came about and we decided to design a pouch for John instead. We went shopping for fabric and decided to go with felt since it is soft but has structure and is kind of squishy. Initially this pouch would hang off your desk with a hook that restaurants use for diners to hang their hand bags. This would work well as we situate John in an office environment. After some testing and prototyping we came up with a standing frame instead so it sits on your desk. We believe that by placing John on the desk with the human instead of concealing it under the table can normalize mental issues instead of shaming it.

Project Context & Bibliography

John is made out of a squishy plastic casing with a spongy filling, this material goes back to its original shape after human manipulation. Inside John is a vibration motor, the intensity of the vibration is adjusted with a slider that is located at the back of the toy. Initially, we saw John as a parody of pseudoscience products that claims to cure all kinds of health ailments. We immediately referenced Dr. Ho’s products, which is a regular on As Seen on TV commercials. Dr. Ho’s vibrating gadgets that resemble medical devices claim to “reduce pain, muscle spasm and more.” We wanted to make fun of how easy it is to insert a vibration motor into anything and bestow it healing properties.

Immediately, we thought of the recent popularity of fidget spinners. We discovered that the widespread popularity of such toys shows that there is a strong demand for products to help and assist humans with stress. Charles Huhigg, a writer for the New York Times concluded that there is no hard scientific research that backs the claims of fidget spinners and their abilities to calm stress. We bought a fidget spinner and compared it with John and after playing with both, we found the fidget spinner to be rather distracting as it is a visually captivating toy whereas playing with John was a more tactile. This allows for the human to take pleasure from a haptic experience rather than a visual experience. Huhigg also concluded that companies are now doing research into squishable toys as an alternative to the fidget spinner.

We wanted to dive deeper into why John’s squishiness created a soothing and comforting sensation. We also passed it around to our classmates and we found that people naturally gravitated towards its squishy properties and wanted to touch it and play with it. We looked into “why do people love to squish squishy things?” and found a interesting research related to this topic. Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon conducted a study in 2012 where they gave bubble wrap to people and showed them pictures of cute animals. They found that people reacted to cute animals by squeezing the bubble wrap. In a Vice article about the study, they concluded that “the science behind cute aggression is still reasonably murky, but Brooks explains that the typical theory comes down to cross-wiring in the brain. ” The brain’s mesocorticolimbic system mediates the response to cuteness,” she says. “Dopamine is released, and that makes us feel good. But interestingly, this process also is involved when we act out on aggressive tendencies. It’s possible that there’s some cross-wiring of the response to cuteness and aggression being mediated by dopamine release.” Although we were not able to conduct a more in depth research into this area of study, we believe that John’s squishiness combined with its vibration haptic technology is a prototype for a new kind of stress relief toy that has real potential market value.


Aragon, Oriana., Clark, Margaret., Dyer, Rebecca. And Bargh, John. “Dimorphous Expressions of Positive Emotion: Displays of Both Care and Aggression in Response to Cute Stimuli.” Association for Psychological Science 26.3 (2015): 259-273. Sagepub. Web. 5 Oct. 2017.

Duhigg, Charles. “The Rise of the Fidget Spinner and the Fall of the Well-Managed Fad.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Aug. 2017, Web. 5 Oct. 2017.

“Science & Research Behind The Pain Therapy System Pro.” Web. 3 Oct. 2017.

Scott, Elfy. “I Asked a Neuroscientist Why I Want to Crush Every Cute Animal I See.” Vice, 30 May 2015, Web. 5 Oct. 2017.

Leave a Reply