Growth of connected play will mean shift from ‘throw-away plastic toys,’ experts predict

The growth of the connected play market will mean a shift away from throw-away plastic toys towards more smart devices that change and update over time in UK households, according to experts in the field.

The connected play space is expected increase 200 per cent in the next five years, and is tipped to be valued at $18 billion in hardware and software by the year 2023. In that same time, those working in the sector are expecting consumers to invest more money in the products they play with.

Among them is Ben Drury, the CEO and founder of the smart tech start-up Yoto – a clever speaker geared that aims to redefine story time and story telling for pre-school and primary children.

Yoto has recently detailed a new partnership with Hachette Children’s Group to bring the Enid Blyton series The Magical Faraway Tree to the platform in audio recordings read by Kate Winslet. The deal is the latest in a swath of partnerships for Yoto that includes HarperCollins and authors Judith Kerr and Roald Dahl.

Using the Yoto speaker and the collection of Yoto cards that can be inserted into the speaker, it allows kids to choose what they want to listen to – music, stories, learning, radio and podcasts – at any time, and all without the use of a screen.

Yoto is part of the formation of what has been called the “connected home.”

“The connected home is here to stay and we will see a shift away from simple plastic throw-away toys towards smarter devices that change and update over time,” Yoto’s Drury told ToyNews.

“My understanding is that the connected toys market is currently tiny, and there are some important wrinkles to iron out such as privacy concerns… There is no microphone or camera inside a Yoto device. Smart tech done right has huge potential in the home to support learning and to be fun as well.”

Made in Sheffield and currently selling direct to consumer and via a few online partners, Yoto aims to be selling its devices, cards and subscriptions in physical retail in the next year.

According to Juniper Research, the current size of the global connected toys sector is estimated at $6 billion. It is expected to have grown by 200 per cent by the year 2023. Drury believes that this growth will not only impact on the traditional toy market, but connected markets such as licensing, too.

Already, we are finding IP making its move into the connected home through Amazon Alexa Skills and stories. LEGO’s DUPLO has a presence on the platform, while popular brands like Pac-Man are developing stories to be added to the ‘connected home.’

“Traditionally, hardware and content have been different universes,” continued Drury. “But we think that with more and more connected devices coming into our home, that old way has to change and hardware and content need to be intrinsically linked.

“Therefore, IP will b licensed more and more to hardware products.”

Yoto is currently seeking further long-term partnerships with brand owners as it looks to increase it unique, interactive content output for the platform. 

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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