10 November 2016
With Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence technologies slowly growing up, children are turning into a promising group for many (tech) companies. By 2020, the global smart toys market is expected to grow to $8.4B, up from already $2.8B today. Increasingly, we see technology companies catering to the youngest generation and traditional toy companies turning themselves into technology firms to keep up with the game.
In the field of education, technology has already played a major part for many years. In 2006, not-for-profit learning platform Khan Academy was founded, offering over 5,000 online courses ranging from mathematics to history. Today, many schools use iPads and online learning portals as part of their education program.
Smart toys might just prove to be the next big thing, fueled by developments in Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. When looking at large toys manufacturers, we see an interesting development: they are increasingly considering themselves to be software companies. Disney for example is running an extensive research program on wireless IoT systems for toys. Lego already offers a range of programmable robots called Mindstorms that children can build themselves and can program to perform tasks and respond to sensors. However, one of the most innovative toys on the market today is Cozmo. Cozmo is a robot the size of a guinea pig that looks like it just escaped from a Pixar movie. It makes use of Artificial Intelligence to interact with children from a young age in a very intuitive and emotionally connecting way: it recognizes faces, learns names, and plays games. Many more toys like Cozmo are in the making, being both smart and connected.
A major reason why smart toys are so promising is adoption rate. It is adoption rate that most technology companies are struggling with and that has been the root problem behind many promising but failed innovations. With toys however, this issue is much less problematic. Children are often better at using technology than adults, and are very quick in adopting new trends. Take for example Musical.ly, a social networking app for video creation and live broadcasting, targeted towards children 8-14. It was launched in 2014, became the most downloaded free app in about thirty countries in 2015, and has over 90 million registered users.
So with Christmas around the corner, this year and the years to come, it will be robots & apps that top the lists of children in all age groups. Because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to have a trainable robot dog?
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