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Case Study: Mapocci

An award winning project described as a tangible interface for emotional communication

Created by By: 'Laura Malinverni & Lilia Villafuerte’


Video of the project can be found here.

Description of Work

Mapocci is an interactive toy for children, it is designed to promote emotional learning and social communication. It aims to achieve this by way of enhancing transmission of affects, narrative construction and communicative awareness. The toy is provided with a 3g connection that will enable distance communication, and it uses a system of sensors and actuators to create an interactive experience.

Mapocci’s objectives are:

  1. improve social communication and interaction between children
  2. elicit affective communication by constructing affective experience in interaction
  3. apply gesture based interaction to narrative construction.

Mapocci is a project by Laura Malinverni & Lilia Villafuerte, produced with the support of Telefonica I+D and Laboral, Art and Industrial Creation.

Lilia Villafuerte is a digital artist and researcher in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). Her work has been exhibited in Spain, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Peru, Great Britain and the USA. Since 2005 Villafuerte has worked as a consultant in new technologies for global brands, NGOs, governments, start-ups and R&D laboratories. As a researcher and creator of emerging technologies, she is included in the European Commission’s database of experts (Horizon 2020). She currently lives in London, where she works in the fields of Blockchain, Fintech, AI and Data Science applied to consumer interfaces.

Laura Malinverni is an artist and researcher in the fields of art, technology and education. Trained in Fine Arts and Cognitive Sciences, and with a PhD in Information and Communication Technologies, she is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Over a four-year period she managed and developed projects with the cultural association She has eight years’ experience teaching and leading workshops, focused primarily from the perspective of processes of collective creation and collaborative design. Malinverni has obtained several distinctions and scholarships to support art creation (BaumannLab, Next Things, Milano in Digitale, Conca). Her works have been showed in events and exhibitions in Spain, Italy, Austria, Belgium and Peru.

Artist Statement

From Laura Malinverni's website:

Together with Lilia Villafuerte we designed, developed and evaluated Mapocci, a robotic companionship for affective communication. In the project I worked in the design, the hardware development and users testing

Halfway between a toy, a media and a pet: Mapocci is designed as a playable interface which allows children to experiment with emotional communication through a physical and sonic experience. Children can interact with Mapocci by touch, movement and physical activity, and the toy - thanks to its system of sensors and emotional intelligence software - can recognise that care and react accordingly. In this way Mapocci simulates its own emotional mood.

These features allow Mapocci to function as a relational object, responsible for collecting and making visible emotional states expressed by the child in their physical interaction with it. Two Mapocci can also be connected to each other through a 3g Internet system, facilitating the remote exchange of emotional messages.

The communication system, inspired by the empathic functioning of the brain, allows physical interactions with one toy to be reflected in the behaviour of the other and vice versa. The model generates a context where each toy serves as a metaphor of the other, emphasising links between human beings and the active role of each one in determining the sensations and emotions of others.


Mapocci is a device based on a wireless connection system which allows for the remote communication of emotional states through a structure of sensors, sound actuators and exchangers. The mechanism is a stand-alone device and does not require a computer in order to operate.

A detailed description of the R&D process and technology used can be found on Laura Malinverni's website.


The Mapocci project has interesting implications for the use of IoT devices to stimulate emotional connection between humans. There is significant precedent for the use of anthropomorphised toys or other mechanical devices in the therapy of both children and ageing adults[1]

Relevant LSP projects:
ACTIVAGE ACTIVAGE (ACTivating InnoVative IoT smart living environments for AGEing well)
SynchroniCity (SynchroniCity: Delivering an IoT enabled Digital Single Market for Europe and Beyond)


  1. Turkle, S. (2006) 'Relational artifacts with children and elders: The complexities of cybercompanionship.' Connection Science Cognitive Science Society, 18(4) pp. 347-361