M2M Toys for a Connected Holiday

11/21/2012

As M2M and connected devices become more embedded in today’s society, the next generation of techies will be looking to get its hands on the latest tech “toys” to help them learn and grow. Many toy companies are examining the idea of Internet-connected toys, most of which would use Wi-Fi to access the Web.

As detailed in the March/April 2012 issue of Connected World, companies like Disney, through its Disney Consumer Products division, www.disneyconsumerproducts.com, and Meccano (which markets Erector Sets) www.meccano.com, are making moves into the area of Internet-connected toys. In fact, Meccano is selling a Wi-Fi-connected robot called Spykee. This robot, which is controlled remotely via an Internet connection, will perform surveillance functions, such as emailing you a photo if it detects motion while you’re away, and it will also let you make free VoIP calls over the Internet.

This holiday season, connectivity is a hot-ticket item. Thanks to a continual advancement in technologies such as AR (augmented reality), connected devices are not just for teenagers and adults; they’re for kids, too.


Scott Jochim, CEO and founder of Digital Tech Frontier, www.digitaltechfrontier.com, and its subsidiary, POPAR Toys, www.popartoys.com, believes adults’ love for technology will inevitably filter down to the next generation, who simply see this technology as a way of life. “We live in a beautifully wired society of information and social connectivity right at our fingertips,” Jochim says. “Mobile devices and smartphones are giving children more ways to play than ever before.”

In fact, Jochim believes augmented reality will be a big part of this revolution. “Augmented reality will lead phones from just a device that we hold up to our ears to ones that we peer through to connect us to the information that we seek,” he says.
While AR is not a new technology, there is plenty of room for growth in several vertical markets. In fact, it is a good example of the way in which M2M has permeated our everyday lives, essentially working behind the scenes.

“When it comes to engaging kids, we are seeing more interaction and added value with … 3D graphics that are driving substantial growth in this sector,” Jochim says. “A game coming alive right before our eyes and into our living rooms is changing the landscape.”

POPAR Toys is one company looking to stay ahead of the curve. Its augmented-reality tech and toy line takes the interactive possibilities of AR and applies it to digital toys, such as action figures and books. Augmented reality refers to the process of laying computer-generated graphics onto real-world images in realtime. In this case, the solution requires a computer, a mobile device, a Webcam, and specially patterned AR markers that superimpose digital 3D images onto physical 2D objects when viewed through a mobile device or Webcam.
 
The company says its goal is to enhance the way kids interact with and experience fun and learning. POPAR Toys is also harnessing AR to create immersive reading experiences that allow children to see 3D objects and animations that “pop off” book pages or flash cards.

“Who would (have) thought that books could come to life and change with every flip of a page?” asks Jochim. “(Technology gives) kids more choices and chances to expand outside and inside as technology connects information to people and allows children to interact with learning in a whole new way.”

What will take this technology to the next level, i.e., mainstream acceptance? Jochim believes the hardware we have at our fingertips today is powerful enough already; continued innovation around value-added applications is what the market needs. “What was holding AR back was that the technology and the usefulness of the applications did not match the creative and innovative ideas that have been around for much longer,” he says. “Content is and will always be king.”

As connected devices and technologies become more integrated into our daily lives and tasks, the number of ways we use them will increase exponentially. For the next generation hoping for a connected holiday this year, there are more options than ever to satisfy their wish lists while engaging them in new and unique ways.





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