The World of Connected Play
Connected play is a big term in the toy industry today, and even in a number of industries targeted towards younger audiences. This type of play exists as a result of our technology driven world. Kids today are looking for a new kind of experience when they play, and it is important to provide them that experience to be successful. Some of the biggest brands have embraced this concept and are pushing connected play like never before. The biggest innovations are coming from startups as they recognize and adapt to this new form of play. Looking forward connected play is an exciting landscape ready to be explored by creators and consumers alike.
So, what is connected play? Connected play is the elegant marriage of physical and digital interaction. It uses the latest in technology to bring physical play into the digital world and vice versa. Like bringing your toys to life in an app so you can interact with them in the digital space. Or creating a physical toy of a digital character so you can play with them in the physical space. The ‘connected’ part of connected play is connecting play between mediums and technologies to create new, exciting ways for consumers to interact with a company’s products. But why is this the latest trend in play?
This trend is largely the result of the current state of society. It is a logical end result of our creation, adoption, and even obsession, with technology. Not that it’s a bad thing to have created all the wonders that technology brings to a world. Just that it has inherently changed society and the world we live in. Our children are growing up in an ever more connected world constantly immersed in a wide variety of technology. It only makes sense that they would want to interact with their favorite toys and characters across these technologies in a number of ways.
They want to use virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), near field communication (NFC), internet of things (IoT), social media, and many more technologies to play in ways we never previously imagined. These technologies can make imaginary worlds more vivid and real and help their favorite toys feel like they can be part of their lives in many ways. Today’s companies and brands must embrace these technologies. These children are just the first wave of a future of connected play. We are already seeing countless top brands and new companies embracing these ideas.
Leaders in the toy and entertainment industries are already investing heavily in these technologies. LEGO, Hasbro, and Nintendo are just a few of the most recognizable names in this space. They are finding new ways of leveraging technology to create more interactive and immersive playspaces. LEGO has products using IoT, AR, social, and even robotics. Hasbro uses NFC, AR, and IoT as well. Nintendo has created physical toys called amiibos that use NFC to trigger events within a video game. These popular brands are already utilizing these technologies in fascinating ways. But the future may truly come from entrepreneurs and small business.
New players in the game of connected play are emerging constantly. They are finding unique new ways of bringing physical toys and digital games and apps together with amazing results. Osmo has made a name for itself using an app for tablets to bring various creations of a child to life. Their tech is simple, but powerful and creates a fantastic connected play experience. Another great new company is Playper (think Play + Paper) who is coming up with unique ways of allowing children to combine crafting their own paper toys and playing games or interacting with them in a digital space using AR. One of their first products currently in development is Kung Fu Boogie, which brings a paper folded toy to life in a 70s Kung Fu themed dance battle game. This space of connected play creates a lot of exciting potential for the future.
Companies are excited. Kids are excited. Everyone should be excited at the prospects these technologies bring to the world just in terms of entertainment and play. Let alone the massive impact these technologies can have at solving large, practical problems. Just looking at the play side of things, we are witnessing the birth of a new era of entertainment. One in which our favorites characters and worlds can feel so much more like we are truly a part of them. Brands and companies are fascinated by the new ways they can interact with their consumers. Consumers are fascinated by the amazing worlds and play spaces these companies are creating. We should be excited and fascinated, because the world of connected play is a future anyone would love to be a part of.