September 18, 2014
The famous fictional astronaut Buzz Lightyear once said: to infinity and beyond! Wise beyond his years, Buzz saw the potential for toys. In what’s become a disruptive innovation for traditional hard plastic dolls and board games, embedded toys are true game changers for the toy industry.
For the young at heart, the idea of all the gadgets in today’s digital age can sometimes put a damper on nostalgia. The days of playing outside for nine hours with a deflated kick-ball and a jump rope might appear to be a thing of the past, but the spirit of play still lives on strong… even in electronic devices.
Enter smart toys. Today’s intelligent toys come in all shapes and sizes, and while most are controlled using an external device (like a cell phone or tablet), there are a growing number of toys being developed using embedded technology – no external control device needed.
When most people think of programming, they think about typing in lines and lines of code. And when most people think about typing lines of code, they think it sounds extremely boring and/or intimidating. Adding intelligent toy technology and embedded Android into the mix makes programming more tangible. And all of the sudden, different learning styles take more interest in programming because it’s easy to see immediate results through working with smart toys.
Calling for kids to upgrade their play, the Sphero is roughly the size of baseball but a lot more versatile. This robotic ball can travel 4.5 miles per hour, be submerged for use in water games, uses Bluetooth technology, and is programmable. The benefits of the first features are obvious, but why is the device’s ability to be programmed important? Because, simply put, it means the limits and possibilities for the play are bound only by imagination!
Recognizing the need to adapt to the changing world of children’s toys, Lego created Mindstorms. In addition to their iconic hard plastic building blocks of creativity, Lego now offers robotic connectors and functions to enhance the building experience. If you thought your imagination could run wild with traditional Legos, just imagine all the possibilities when building a scorpion controlled by your smartphone…
DragonBot is an example of a growing trend in embedded Android toys: devices that actually build a personality. Essentially, a toy with a memory. The technology works to remember previous settings, actions and responses. Enter the growing world of creepy (and cute too, watch the video here). Developed by the Personal Robots Group at MIT, this little guy offers a truly unique, interactive experience to users.
Even adults need to escape from reality once in a while. While we can’t always get away with building Legos, drones are becoming a popular adult alternative to the traditional toy. While drones sometimes make headlines for invading privacy and crashing into natural wonders, when used appropriately they are pretty darn cool. Designed for everything from aerial photography and videography to just plain cruising around in the open sky, drone technology is advancing rapidly, and many people would consider them to be a fun toy.
The current state of intelligent toys is really only the beginning of what promises to be an exciting journey. The use of embedded Android, as well as other platforms, is rapidly expanding the capabilities of toys as we know them today. So strap in, playtime is only going to get more fun!