It is often the case that the first ‘roll out’ of consumer technology is to the kids and family market, from Microsoft’s Kinect, to robotics and AR toys, kids and families are a great audience to test the water with.
Not only is the tech toy sector always looking for the latest thing to give them the edge and stand out at Christmas, but toys are a great place to see how technology could actually work and try and find a market for innovative new technology (Slinky, silly putty, and Play-Doh are all good examples of a product without a market)
Kids are both the most forgiving and least forgiving consumers out there. Their lack of preconceptions about what something should be, means they will approach a new product with an open mind. Most adults took a long while to actually speak into their TV remote when that functionality was first introduced by Samsung 10 years ago, they would be self conscious and not used to using a remote in this way. But kids don’t suffer from these afflictions and were happy to embrace the technology as long as it worked and did what they hoped.
With all this in mind I always scan the news this time of year to see what technology is being targeted to the kids and family market at the annual tech fest that is CES. My top 5 picks from this year’s haul are (in no particular order)-
1 - Jooki 2
We are doing a lot of research at the moment into kids music consumption so this one really caught our eye. Not really that innovative, as the Tonies and other ‘speaker box’ systems have been around for a while, but I like the idea of having kids-friendly, spotify playlists being played when different physical items are placed on top of the box.
It empowered children to be able to choose music but without the need to give them a phone / screen.
2 - Picoo
Again (despite their claims) not the world's first outdoor gaming device but still a pretty cool piece of tech that gives children the satisfactory allure of technology while being screen free and very much outdoor games based. Preloaded with a load of different games with loads more still to come.
3 - Arcade machines
Arcade 1up announced at CES that they would be releasing both Centipede and Pac-Mania stand up arcade machines, both of which really trigger my nostalgia reponse. Priced at around $699 they can elicit both “wow that is cheap” and “wow that is expensive” responses depending on your frame of reference. While it is ‘screen’ based, it feels different, more physical and social than normal kids video games which gives it a bit more of a guilt free gaming experience.
Kids love gross stuff, squishies and technology, parents love educational stuff so combine the two and you get the “Ultimate Squishy with SmartScan technology”. The anatomically correct body is full of squishy body parts that can be removed and studied. Put them on the ‘smart scanner’ and the speaker will play you additional information about them or you can take a quiz.
5 - Amagami Ham Ham
And finally… there is always one toy that catches peoples eye and this year it is the Amagami Ham Ham, a cute kitten toy that will nibble your fingers… Allow me to quote their site -
“What is AMAGAMI? The charming gesture where pets and babies gently nibble your finger with their small teeth. Sadly, you need to harden your heart and scold them for this act. AMAGAMI HAM HAM frees all humanity from such dilemmas.”
What I find interesting about this list is how they are all (pretty much) screen free. The show itself was FULL of the latest in screen technology from projectors, to giant 8K screens and even a BMW that is cased entirely in a screen. Yet the stuff aimed at children moved away from that. Maybe the screen-heavy pandemic lock-down has pushed consumers to seek alternatives for their children?