Along with our sister titles Develop, PCR and MCV, we’re big fans of technology and innovation here at ToyNews.
This year’s Inventors Workshop is boasting a few tech-based strands to reflect the importance of innovation in the toy space, as well as the background of many independent inventors working in toys.
Many of them come from engineering backgrounds and some of the biggest success stories we’ve shared on the Bulletin have come from individual’s successful new adventures in the tech toy space.
But in the last few weeks, Google has found the press turn on its attempt at introducing a new tech product to the market.
News that the firm has patented a tech teddy bear that can control devices and monitor children was met widely with derision. If made, the teddy will be able to ‘control one or more media devices’ and it can keeping a watchful eye, and ear, on kids with cameras built-into its eyes and twin microphones built in behind its ears.
Alright, so the fact that the bear boasts the ability to move its head to face you is a little bit much, but did it really deserve headlines like ‘Google creepy robot teddy bear patent revealed’, ‘Google’s Plan for a Sci-fi Teddy Bear is Terrifying’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Google files patent for ‘Chucky’-esque smart teddy bear that may haunt your dreams’?
Back in February, months after it hit the shelves, Vivid’s My Friend Cayla was hit by reports that security researcher Ken Munro from company Pen Test Partners had found that you can hack into Cayla’s system to make her say naughty words.
Now obviously, it isn’t as simple as reports suggested. As Vivid itself responded: "The hacking example highlighted here is an isolated case which has been carried out on a specific, individual device by a specialist team using developer software."
Recent examples go on and on (When Mattel announced its Wi-Fi infused Barbie doll, The Independent ran with the headline ‘Mattel’s wifi Barbie could be used to spy on children’).
While it all might just be an elaborate PR campaign ahead of the release of Terminator Genisys (hits UK cinemas on July 2nd. Exciting times), the more likely reason is that age old concerns around the safety of blending cutting edge technology with children’s products are still alive and kicking.
Child friendly tablets have suffered in the past, the toys to life sector was approached warily at first by toy retailers and app toys are yet to properly be fully embraced by the mainstream.
The industry needs to embrace innovation and keep up with the latest technology to grow, and it might be time to start looking at these new products with a half-glass full approach, rather than leaping straight to the Helen Lovejoy state of mind (as seen below).