Toys and games for kids have become that much more exciting now that interactivity and augmented reality are joining the fore of how children can play and learn.
There were three examples at CES that are worth noting. First, during the Microsoft keynote by Steve Ballmer, the Kinect was showcased through a partnership with Sesame Workshop in creating Kinect Sesame Street TV. Microsoft is taking current TV programming and turning them into interactive experiences - partially streaming video; partially interactive video game - all with the intention of keeping children engaged while learning. (Note: thank you to GameSpot for this video). In the video you will see the learning component, coupled with the interactive participation of voice and gesture enabled through the Kinect with Sesame Street characters reacting to viewer actions and responding immediately depending on what the viewer - shall we call them now players/actors/active learners do.
you can kind of see in this photograph to the right, toys are placed on the board. Each toy has an individual design pattern that identifies it to the software as a particular Sesame Street character. When the toy is placed on the board, the game software recognizes it, and brings the characer into the video game. In the demo shown during the keynote, the character says hello, starts interacting with the other characters on the board, and with the player.
I saw this technology in the late 90's
at Washington University's Human Interface Technology Lab (HITLab) and it was cool then, even though it was super simple and involved a lot of wires. Now this type of augmented reality tech is finally coming to market in ways that go beyond linking to advertising websites and videos.
And don't forget toy product packaging. Lego was showcasing its new interactive augmented reality kiosk at the Intel booth. Here you see the product packaging is shown and immediately you see a 3D visual of what is inside the box and what it can build.
As you twist and turn the box, the image turns with you so you can see a full 3D view of what it contains. The interface, as far as I saw, did not offer swipe or gesture technology interactivity. Perhaps that is coming down the road. No voice described the product, but I presume that is easy to do and perhaps already exists in the kiosk. Seeing how kiosk technology is developing today, I anticipate the kiosk recognizing not only the package, but also the person holding it so that it can present advertising regarding that product which is targeted toward a child - female and male; or adult - female and male, mom or day, grandparent, etc. Yes, the retail intelligence shown here is just the beginning. So just as interactive game and TV interfaces become increasingly sophisticated so they recognize who the player is that now stands before them; the same technology will be used in all forms of kiosk and interactive screen technology that will continue to proliferate.