The future of play

The next wave of technology for toys will see us move one step away from tablets and one closer to the holodeck, says Steve Reece.
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Once upon a time, the Star Trek holodeck was the future of play. 

A blank room with a large console from which the room could be transformed into whatever scenario, situation, environment or world the user wanted. Within this fantastical world was an array of characters limited only by the imagination.

For those of us old enough to have grown up in a world where computers and devices were not especially prevalent, where ‘games’ were made out of cardboard, or if you were lucky, plastic, and where your imagination had to

do all the work, the holodeck concept was mind boggling.

Today though, it seems that we are creeping ever closer towards this vision of future play. The tablet phenomena has been all about making ‘computing’ portable and wireless, intuitive and fun… yet it’s still all about a fixed screen. We still have to stare at the screen to make it work. As amazing as these devices are, they are only the beginning, and in just a few years will seem old hat. 

The next wave of technology to come is going to see us move one step closer to the holodeck, and one step on from tablets. The next step is all about user-controlled interfaces, which all sounds very jargony, but to cut through all that, it basically means projected displays, so that we no longer need to be tied to our desks or gadgets to get things done. 

Imagine if you will your current screen-based display projected onto a surface around you, maybe a wall, door or screen. Maybe it just projected into the air in front of you. Add in voice control and the kind of motion sensing which we can take for granted in this day and age, and gestures become our control instead of a mouse or tablet touch screen.

All very exciting, but what does this have to do with toys and play? Actually it has a lot to offer us. Because if we add projection of and interaction with moving images into the mix, suddenly we move another step closer to the holodeck.

If Skylanders is today’s digital/real world fusion product, then tomorrow’s will be even more immersive. The toy itself will be the ‘console’ and will control the imagery, sounds and play experience. Wow! 

And the best thing? This could be less than five years away…

About the author

Steve Reece has published a white paper 'Construction Toys, Consumer segmentation and motivations to play’. www.stevenreece.com
steve.reece@vicientertainment.co.uk

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