Converging Toys, Part II

Some time back I wrote a blog entry titled, “Converging Toys, Part I” (reLink) with the intention of writing a “Part II” shortly after. Needless to say, this follow-up is a long time in coming, but I can’t think of a better time than now, as it comes so soon after Christmas.

The big story of this Christmas season is probably Webkinz (mentioned earlier in my “Dawn of the Transreality Toys” post – reLink). I’ve been seeing blog posts and Twitter entries relaying everything from how popular the Webkinz product is (Link 1, Link 2) to how difficult logging into the Webkinz online world has become (Link 3, Link 4). An enviable problem to be sure, and one which I suspect we’ll see repeated as more toy companies explore this development angle and try to figure out how to replicate Ganz’s success. What’s notable, however, is how quickly Webkinz’s approach – tangible reality combined with a virtual component – has been embraced by consumers and other toy companies (Mattel’s BarbieGirls being one of the more heavily discussed since its announcement).

The other notable toy story this year is the less well-known creation from one of the mad scientists who brought us Furby. This time, it’s the highly responsive toy dinosaur, Pleo, and the MIT Technology Review (among other notable sites) has covered the pricey, artificial critter in an article titled, “Robot Dinosaur Finally Released” (Link). It’s a short, worthwhile read.

I’m following this product in particular with some interest, since I don’t think it’ll be very long before a virtual Pleo is created and the two are wirelessly linked together in ways that will make Webkinz and its copycats look downright prehistoric.

When that happens, I suspect a collective light bulb will go off across the world and we’ll start seeing some extraordinary developments. At which point one can only wonder how long after the stupid, miniature dinosaurs before the supertoys arrive.

{Update: It’s great to see an entry like the one I came across on Kim Pallister’s blog yesterday (Link). I’d learned about Build-A-Bear Workshop sometime last Summer iirc [Note: as I thought… on Raph Koster’s blog – Link], and my thoughts then were very much the same as what he details in his post, and pretty much follow the kinds of things I’ve been discussing here in other entries.

To be honest though, I’d forgotten about the Build-A-Bear store. Not too surprising. It’s not like I want to go this route. I’d rather custom build/mod the things virtually and fab the tangibles custom. Starting with the virtual eliminates the brick & mortar, after all.}

3 thoughts on “Converging Toys, Part II

  1. Another one is Funkees. I hadn’t heard of them either until a few weeks ago when my 8 year old wanted to buy some with her Christmas money.

    They are little plastic toys that plug-in to a usb hub shaped in the same shape as the toy (just a little bigger). Then you can log in to a online ‘funkee town’ where you can walk around a play interactive games. There are other funkees on the grid, but you can’t really interact with them (no chat or voice) probably to restrict potential for online predators. Pretty interesting way to get kids involved in a social network.

  2. Gracias.

    This space is set to explode. I’ve been trying to draw some industrial designers into a conversation on the future of the profession (with this type of tech playing a role) and just posted a link to an old “stellayan” entry (reLink) and thought, “It won’t be a Blackberry; it’ll be a toy.”

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