How Duolingo intended the new characters for its Project Environment

Language application Duolingo is unveiling a new solid of characters that it hopes will support users much better study new languages, even in the course of the hardest classes. The people will act as guides inside the application, cheering you on if you get an remedy proper, or reacting in a upset (or sassy) way if you get one mistaken. The 9 characters of Duolingo Project World all have unique personalities, and provide as guides to make a new language feel extra familiar.

“Obviously Duolingo is a incredibly gamified language understanding application,” suggests Duolingo art director Greg Hartman. “We took a whole lot of cues from other video games, and I feel you recognize how motivating characters can be when you take away the principal character you have an emotional attachment to you are going to most likely enjoy that sport fewer. We wanted to build some psychological connection, and have figures that motivate consumers, by giving them optimistic reinforcement.”


Mastering a language can be a complicated journey that can take a large amount of psychological electricity, Hartman notes you are discovering things like how to get food stuff in Spanish, phrases that would be practical to connect with other speakers, but maybe not the most scintillating conversation content. “So the issue was: How you make these day-to-day eventualities exciting?”

Keeping the Duo Style and design

In designing the figures that inhabit Duolingo Earth, Hartman states the staff wished to preserve the same style features of their mascot owl Duo, with his massive eyes, simple overall body shape, and detached feet. With most cartoon figures, the design is knowledgeable by the character’s personality— triangles are dynamic, squares are solid, and circles are exciting, for case in point. But the figures in Duolingo never definitely have tale arcs, they’re only there to aid the user. Hartman states they made the decision to allow the design and style drive the characters’ personalities. So a lady with purple hair and a lot of sharp angles became an emo


character named Lily a round fellow with a beard is form-hearted Vikram and a blocky little one character with a prosper of purple hair grew to become energetic Junior. They went as a result of several designs and iterations prior to arriving at their ultimate 9 types, Hartman provides.

They also resolved that in order for the experience to come to feel authentically immersive, they’d have to insert voices, fairly than relying on their default male or female voices. They hired a voice actor for every character, and worked with Microsoft to develop custom text-to-speech fonts. “It provides additional character to the app, and if you’re not hearing the exact same voice all the time, it will help educate our learners’ ears,” Hartman stated.

Duolingo will be releasing the specific characters’ voices in the coming months.

Discovering common names

Picking out the names proved a bigger obstacle than Hartman was anticipating. They desired names that sounded the exact across languages, so that ruled out some early concepts, which include “Jun” for one character simply because in Spanish it would be pronounced “Hoon.” And they renamed a person character when they understood that in French “Pete” can seem like the term for “fart.”

Hartman also says the staff required to make absolutely sure they weren’t deciding upon names that may translate into one thing offensive in another language: “We checked each and every name in every language we educate,” he says. “That was a large aspect of the advancement of the figures.” He provides that acquiring a numerous workforce proved valuable: “All I experienced to do was go to a member of our staff, and say ‘tell me in which we’ve gotten it wrong’ and men and women have been kind more than enough to enable guide us.”

The final significant redesign at Duolingo occurred in 2018, when the enterprise changed Duo’s appear and gave him much more expressions (if you are not guilted into ending your French lesson by a weepy eco-friendly owl, I can not assistance you), and redesigned the relaxation of the application to reflect his more recent glimpse.

There are no ideas to get rid of Duo, Hartman claims Duolingo is Duo’s globe and these other people dwell in it. But, he provides, they determined not to structure the new figures as other animals, simply because it did not rather experience correct for what they were being hoping to carry out. “Language is so deeply rooted in human society, and it seemed strange to increase a solid of characters not from our globe,” he reported.

Admirer Artwork Fridays

Duolingo started rolling out the new people to surface in lessons in the application before this 12 months, and have because been adding them to other functions within just the app as very well. For instance, they started showing up in Duolingo Stories in July, and earlier this month, confirmed up in mid-lesson animations to cheer learners on.

Then a humorous matter transpired: Admirer artwork versions of the people started showing up on social media. So the enterprise commenced a Fan Artwork Friday contest to really encourage men and women to send out in their artwork to be showcased in Duolingo social posts.

The figures will officially roll out right now at Duolingo’s once-a-year Duocon convention. They’ll be readily available in Duolingo courses in which both equally languages are one of Spanish, French, German, English, or Portuguese, with plans to eventually incorporate them to other language courses in the app.

Hartman claims Duolingo thinks of gamifying language learning as a way to make a often difficult —but eventually rewarding— process a lot more pleasing, substantially in the way sports activities can make physical training feel like fewer of a grind. “It’s at times hard to get up and just run close to your garden, but at the time you introduce a ball and wholesome competitiveness, you assume much less about how bodily tough it is and extra about the ball and the target,” he claimed. “Duolingo wants to introduce a ‘mental ball’ to hold learners inspired.”

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