Imagine entering your dining room and seeing your 9-year-old kid, sitting on the floor surrounded by stuffed toys, action figures and building blocks, and a tablet in front of them.
- “Shhh… be quiet! Now comes my favorite part!” – says your kid to the toys.
- “How is it going kiddo?” – you ask.
- “Cool! Me and my friends are watching a movie together!” -says smiling.
This could be a fairly common scene today, but it is not far from watching our children chatting with their favorite TV characters in real time, or 3D printing their own toys at home. Tech and toys always go hand in hand and their relationship can develop exciting ways of playing relying on kid’s active imagination.
One of those product categories that have emerged from that relationship are Digital Toys, a term often used to describe mobile apps with a somewhat free-form playable scenario and specifically designed for kids. The first developments of these so called digital toy apps were mainly interactive books, like CHOMP, but now you can find thousands of apps created to entertain our kids in a more open ended way than regular videogames.
Toca Boca Games: The Power of Play
This trend solidified mainly due to Toca Boca, a Scandinavian company that takes child’s play seriously. Toca Boca games are relaxed, well-designed and visually appealing, but that’s not all. They have no goals, scores or adverts, and present an imaginative virtual sandbox for kids to explore, play-in and even learn.
Costing a few bucks each, the great thing about Toca Boca games is that you put them in front of a young child and they’ll start experimenting and having fun on their own. For example, Toca Train lets the kid drive a train and pick up passengers,Toca Blocks, on the other hand, allows you to design your own worlds by combining blocks and discovering new interactions among them.
In Melbot, we love Toca Boca for creating games that were centered on exploratory play rather than linear gaming or traditional education. Their product vision, informed approach and design process have been a great reference to many and definitely a great inspiration to create our toys and games about Melbits™.
Sparking curiosity and creativity with Extraordinary Facility
But there are other great companies doing amazing work in creating amazing digital toys for kids that blur the lines between edutainment, cartoons, toys and videogames. Extraordinary Facility is the studio that developed The Tune Zoo, a music toy for iPad that encourages kids (or adults!) to explore the fundamentals of music. In their projects they use humour, music and brilliant UX/UI design as a vehicle to take the user in a lovely playable journey with an exploratory purpose and undefined goal. Now, they’re working on The Singing Sock Puppets, a Hardware spiritual predecessor of the Tune Zoo combining physical and digital toys to sing musical scales.
We are in love with digital toys and how they have successfully incorporated the open ended play aspect of traditional toys and turned our cold mobile devices in boxes full of surprises and fun, just for the sake of it, that’s what a toy should be.
Today, many parents take their kids to the playground to have some fun, but imagine a world in which practically everywhere can be a physical-digital play area. That’s what we aim with the Melbits™ POD, a sensor equipped toy that reacts to light, motion and temperature to hatch and nurture your own tribe of Melbits, digital fantastic creatures that will live in every device.
We talked before about other references that inspired us to create the Melbits™ POD, like the toys to life, and we want to incorporate Digital Toys to that list.
The Melbits Hub, the digital space to play with your own tribe of Melbits™
Melbits POD our virtual pet toy, works with companion app: the Melbits Hub. In that digital space, you can take care and play with your own tribe of Melbits. It’s an open ended gameplay in which players journey is about exploring the possibilities that the different hatching missions offer and their effects on the cute creatures. A journey in which the pace is set only by the players curiosity and the will of the Melbits themselves, that have their own schedule sometimes.
Is not an easy task for today’s parents to find apps specifically designed for kids that are safe, imaginative and free from somehow violence or competition based mechanics. That’s why we want to involve parents as much as we can with features like the day-night sleep Control that will help to balance screen time and engage with your kids playtime, among other features that we’ll unveil soon.
The future favors flexibility. Of course digital toys are not meant to replace traditional toys, but to complement them. And children who are empowered through play, whose natural abilities are amplified, who see potential and possibilities, will face the world ahead of them with confidence. Children are not afraid to use technology, they don’t wait for. Digital Toys are just one of the few exciting ways in which technology can change playtime, and more are about to come.
Parents will have much to say in which toys and games go from an idea to production. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGogo empowers people to make great ideas of innovative playthings or design products that might not happen otherwise.
The Melbits™ POD is one of those ideas that asked for support in an crowdfunding campaign.
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