Children’s entertainment studio Roam & Wander wants spark children’s imaginations by bridging the gap between touchscreens and real-life toys. The Hong Kong and Taipei-based startup’s top-selling iOS app, Sticker Games, allows kids to earn real stickers sent through postal mail. Now its first stuffed animal, a pink bunny named TuTu that comes with a set of touch-enabled accessories for iPhones and iPod Touches, is seeking funding on Kickstarter.
Roam & Wander, which has received Series A funding from venture firms WI Harper and TMI Ventures, is not the first company to design stuffed animals as child-friendly cases for mobile devices. But TuTu is not just a gadget holder. The TuTu app and toy set was designed by Roam & Wander founder Jason Warren to give children growing up in the digital age a more engaging and tactile way of interacting with mobile devices.
“I love video games, everyone in my family is a hardcore gamer–my wife, my sister, all the females in my family,” says Warren. As his daughter grew older, Warren was delighted to see her start taking up the family pastime. But then he began to worry about the stretches of time she and her friends spent engrossed in tablets and smartphones, silently tapping away at the screen.
“They didn’t have a strong connection to physical games. They were literally living in a digital world,” says Warren, who was a general manager at HTC before founding his startup. “I didn’t feel that was super healthy, so I thought there has to be a way to use the creative canvas provided by smartphones and embed them in toys to make them more fun and engaging.”
TuTu’s expressive face is powered by an iPhone or iPod Touch screen and kids can play with her using a set of plastic toys with touch-enabled sensors, including a milk box, carrot and toothbrush. After TuTu has been fed and groomed, she can be rocked to sleep with the device’s motion sensor. In TuTu’s dream state, kids play a series of games that allow them to learn new skills while getting a glimpse into the bunny’s backstory.
Roam & Wander hopes to raise $25,000 on Kickstarter by July 11, which will fund the production tooling of TuTu’s plastic accessories and the completion of safety testing and certification to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards. Roam & Wander plan to follow TuTu with the release of their second character DiDi, a teddy bear powered by the iPad mini.