Software Upgrades Re-Create Old-School Toys as Smart Playthings

ToysBalls. Dolls. Race cars. So dull.

How can good old-fashioned toys like these compete for children?s attention when kids seem umbilically connected to their iPads?

How about software-upgradable balls, dolls and race cars?

Established toy makers and entrepreneurs from outside the toy industry are creating a new generation of connected toys. Just as software updates pulse new life into years-old smartphones and tablets, so too for kids? playthings. Equipped with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, the toys can be customized, personalized and improved through the Internet to make them just as dynamic as tablets.

?The world of imagination coupled with your phone is the new reality for toys,? said Adam Wilson, chief software architect at connected-toy maker Sphero. ?Playing with plastic is just not enough today.?

Sphero?s pitch to parents is simple. No kid will be chasing after his or her iPad or tossing it like a Frisbee (well, hopefully). To get children to move more than their fingers and to hang out with friends, Sphero is offering toys juiced with software.

Sphero sells cylindrical and spherical polycarbonate toys controlled by smartphone and tablet apps that kids can race, light up, toss as a fetch toy or roll down the living room like a bowling ball. They start at $99.

If imagination alone doesn?t lead to a cool use, Sphero provides more than 30 apps that interact with its products. One app turns Sphero into a measuring tape. Another, a digital hot potato. In games, the gadgets become controllers to be tilted and turned similar to waving a Nintendo Wii remote. Players also have the option of writing their own code and apps.

?We?re at stage 1 of 150 stages to make a whole new experience for people,? Wilson said.

Source: (TNS)