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Toys and Big Data By @JimKaskade | @BigDataExpo #IoT #BigData
For decades, children’s “digital experience” was essentially limited to watching television or listening to music
By: Jim Kaskade
Aug. 5, 2015 09:45 AM
What a beautifully naive question that my son, Trevor, asked me during a son-dad conversation about how games might change over the years.
Earlier last year, Mattel’s CEO, Bryan Stockton, was fired. After three years, it was clear that Mattel was continuing to be challenged with sales weakness, and lower gross margins, which drove down shareholder value.
As parents, we ALL know that it’s a very competitive toy aisle, and our kids are much different than we were at their age.
Mattel’s toys haven’t been “good enough” at a time when peers like Hasbro and Lego continue to report higher and higher sales. It’s not just Mattel. Nintendo, the one-time market leader video games brand best known for legendary characters like Super Mario, has been struggling to keep up with the times as mobile gaming explodes and “next-gen” consoles become cutting-edge.
So what’s happening to the toy market?
A New Toy Generation
I had a wonderful childhood of imagination where I played the roles of many super heroes on many adventures. As parents, we forget how wonderful our “inner stories” and games were.
My son would stare out the car window telling himself a story….imagining himself in the middle of some wonderful scene…something he thought up as part of his own imaginary world. I love watching him and his brother, Devon, role playing battles, creative worlds, that they both dream up daily.
How Are Kids Engaging Today?
Clearly the answer to the Mattel dilemma varies a bit based on age. However, there is a common theme, starting even with the youngest children – It has to do with the fact that most of our world is becoming digital.
For decades, children’s “digital experience” was essentially limited to watching television or listening to music. Few parents complained about a child becoming addicted to listening to music, or being addicted to television. However, it has now been a growing concern among parents, and has now extended beyond TV.
Today, parents not only need to be vigilant about how much television their children watch, but the many other forms of media coming from the internet, smart phones, iPods, iPads, Wii games, and the like.
Kids today spend over 50 hours of “screen time” every week. In our family, “screens” include the TV, any computer device, and any phone. Kids will go to many extremes to get on a “screen”.
My wife will call my boy’s names to find out where they are in the house…only to find them tucked under the crawl space under their beds hiding behind their respective screens.
The media content they consume has a profound impact on their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. Learning how to use media and technology wisely is an essential skill for life and learning in the 21st century. But parents, teachers, and policymakers struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing digital world in which our children live and learn. Now more than ever, they need a trusted guide to help them navigate a world where change is the only constant.
RPGs Evolve to MMORPGs in the Digital Domain
Do I want my kids to connect with their friends through a screen….or, rather, be outdoors with their favorite toys? In both cases, their creative natures are fueled. I’ve seen some very creative minecraft worlds constructed by both boys. But I’m torn. I think I’d prefer to see that same “world” constructed in legos in the backyard, hidden under a wood box with rocks on it. Wouldn’t you?
How do we combine offline and online experiences, providing a healthy balance?
Toys + Gaming = IGTs (Interactive Gaming Toys)
These are a combination of toys and digital games, combining the physical and digital worlds. It’s an interesting direction…one fueled by the interest of the next-generation child.
Toys & Big Data
This is all about “re-imagining” your business, by starting with the customer’s digital experience. In this case, it’s our children.
If you were Christopher Sinclair at Mattel, what would you be dreaming up for your children’s world of toys? Lets imagine a combined physical and virtual world that provides a completely new digital experience for our children. This is what Mattel’s senior team has begun.
In February this year, Mattel announced that it will offer “experience reel” cards that will offer exclusive content that will be available as a Google Cardboard application, specific for Mattel customers. This means that you can wear Mattel toy glasses and combine your physical and virtual worlds. You can enter into Barbie and Ken’s virtual world.
Imagine your children taking your home and painting it with colors they like, adding virtual furniture they prefer, hanging their own art on the walls, interacting with their favorite characters in various rooms.
Mattel also announced its partnership with San Francisco startup ToyTalk, which through a cloud-based app can enable your toys to have conversations. This supports the idea of conversational play. The doll uses speech recognition to record your kid’s conversations and store them in the cloud. The doll records any human speech it detects in an effort to intelligently respond. So, any human conversation within its hearing can be stored in the cloud and analyzed. On Christmas Day, Barbie could ask a child what they received from Santa. Or Ken could ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Digitally-enabled toys? Digitally-enabled play experiences? Combined physical and virtual worlds? MMORPGs? IGTs?
I’ve been involved with data and analytics infrastructure since I can remember….the early 1980s. I’ve been trained on the nuances of how to collect, store, analyze, and operationalize data for a variety of use-cases for my entire career.
What I see, is an infinite number of opportunities to leverage data for a host of new educational, personalized, engaging toy applications. When you know what your child is thinking, interested in, worried about, toys can become a gateway for not only a personalized experience (e.g. when a toy responds back to your child, addressing them by their name), but the toy can listen to their worries and alert us parents about opportunities to assist in addressing our children’s fears, their curiosities, their thirst for knowledge.
Toy makers can use the same information to better classify children, constantly improving on their toy designs, their games, their educational curriculum.
Imagine….a digital world where anything is possible:
These are just a few fun ideas from Jen Quinlan, who brainstormed a few ways that iBeacon technology could be applied with real-time analytics, contributing to a new digital world with new interactive digital applications.
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