Eventually, it’s probably safe to assume that all electronics will be in some way connected to the Internet. As long as you’re not worried about a Skynet-style Terminator apocalyptic future, that’s probably a good thing. With that in mind, the online gaming network SGN began working on a secret project to connect children’s toys to the Internet. Today, ToyBots is being unveiled at TechCrunch50.
Basically, the ToyBots’ vision is to be the platform that any toy maker can use to make sure their devices have a portal to the Internet, and all the data potential that comes with it. SGN and ToyBots founder Shervin Pishevar describes the key idea as a “Kindle of toys” or an “iPhone inside of a toy.” The thought there being that the Kindle works so well because of the network behind it that allows the device to seamlessly connect to Amazon’s extensive collection of books. Likewise, ToyBots is announcing a partnership with a major telecom provider (they’ll announce in the next week or so) that will allow toy makers to set up pre-paid service for their toys (that is, have wireless costs baked into the product, like the Kindle, rather than making customers pay a monthly fee).
ToyBots’ demo product is called the Woozee. Basically, it’s a cute stuffed toy that can transmit messages sent over the Internet. So if a parent is away on a business trip, but wants to be able to read to their child at night, they can record themselves reading on something like their iPhone (via an app) and send it to the toy. The child would get an alert via the toy that a message is there. Then, when they’re ready, they can play it back, via the toy (think: Teddy Ruxpin, but with a parent’s voice rather than a stranger’s, and it has an accelerometer!). A sender could also set message to play for a specific time; the child’s bedtime, for example.
There is also a website component to this Woozee that allows for further functionality. You can have a network of friends with their own toys, for example. This is kind of like the Chumby, as it’s a web-connected device with a website component where you can manipulate it as well.
Alongside Pishevar, Carrie Feigel, Senior Director Marketing, presented today.
Expert Panel Q&A (paraphrased)
The experts: Don Dodge, Yossi Vardi, Ron Conway, George Zachary, and Jason Hirschhorn.
Q: Who are you selling to? And will you let Obama speak to children through this device?
SP: Yes, Obama will be able to speak to the kids. The number one audience is the developer community to make all kinds of toys. We’d like the major toy companies to get on board.
Q: How important is the platform versus the toys? I want a Chucky toy.
SP: I want a Chucky toy as well. A lot of different audiences can be reached with this. We hope it’s similar to the App Store with the iPhone.
CF: There’s a big market for people who want to get their favorite toy with this tech.
Q: How does Spongebob get on this?
CF: He would get his own toy and cotent.
Q: Do you make royalties from toy developers?
CF: That’s a part of it, but also a partnership.
SP: We don’t want to build the toys ourselves. We want to be the gaming cloud.
Q: Will you open this to anyone, or will you control this? What about porn?
SP: We’ll leave that to someone else to work on.
Q: What’s the security?
CF: There would have to be careful controls, we would approve apps, and manufacturers would have a say.
Q: Big challenge crossing the virtual world to physical world with a toy.
CF: Club Penguin started virtual then went physical.
Q: Invest/take another meeting/pass?
GZ: Second meeting
RC: Get retailers
YV: We need better toilet seats first!
DD: Nothing more to say than what Yossi did.
TC50: Toybots lets toys come to life with Internet connectivity VentureBeat.
ToyBots – Connected Toys Of Some Sort #TC50 Techgeist.
Quick Thoughts from TC50: ToyBots Startup Marketing Blog.