Will The Ongoing Artificial Intelligence Revolution Revolutionise The Toy Business? And In What Ways? Part 2 of 2 – PRODUCT
In the last article on this topic we looked at how artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionise work and society over the next 10 to 20 years. In this article we will look at what AI means for toy products. Or to put it another way, how can AI help us create even more compelling play experiences and even more desirable toys?
This question has a very simple answer – AI can help us to create more compelling toys by making the toys more interactive, more lifelike and ever more tailored to the child’s wants and needs.
The best way to think about this is to look at how children interact with animals like cats and dogs. They tend to form a strong bond with their pets, but their interaction with the animal is often frustrating from both sides – the child finds that the pet won’t do what they want, and the pet finds the children often heavy handed and over-bearing. While kids will find animals super cute or hilariously funny, the actual relationship with them is not always as strong as it might be.
Toys such as Furby (mk 1) brought toys to life and helped kids by giving them a ‘pet’ which was entirely designed around their experiential needs. By putting a furry outer layer on some technology the toy was ‘brought to life’ and to a very basic degree made interactive. Furby (mk 2) stepped this up, and just by looking at the packaging which listed multiple patents contained inside, it became obvious that this was a new type of toy – one which was featuring tech not previously utilised in toys. But even then, the level of interaction was still kind of basic.
Where A.I. is headed in general is not entirely clear, but as far as toys are concerned the destination is already quite clear: kids don’t care about the complexities and technicalities of technology. They care about the toy, the experience and the level of interaction they can have with a toy. A.I. will allow toy companies (or tech companies) to deliver the kind of lovable friend kids would really want. A.I.’s most basic function is to learn & adjust its functions accordingly, and so by learning what the child likes and doesn’t like, and by constantly assessing the child’s actions, the toy can tailor what it does and how it does it to the child. Let’s say for instance the child is obsessed with sports, or is scared of something, then the toy can help them through that experience. If you think of everything the internet can do for us today, from searching for data or documents, planning a route to a destination, to entertaining us, teaching us and so much more – well all this can be delivered by the toy.
Think about everything we use Alexa for today. Then consider that Alexa is only going to get better, because everyday millions of inputs, requests and queries go into the A.I. behind Alexa, and so Alexa learns and gets better and better over time. The same will happen with A.I. toys.
Now the reality is that the toy business is actually a relatively minor one on a global scale in terms of technological development. Therefore, Google, Amazon, Elon Musk & other tech luminaries are not staying awake at night trying to work out what toys to make next and what technology would enhance the play experience. But what they are doing is constantly developing new technology and A.I. to constantly improve things. The toy industry has always been adept at launching new toys featuring technology invented elsewhere and for different reasons.
That is the really exciting thing about A.I. for toy companies – the options are growing exponentially, but these types of products take more investment than another lump of mechanical plastic. The toy business is never going to be cutting edge, but by using the technology of yesterday we deliver the toys of today, and yesterday’s technology has never been more powerful, advanced and affordable.
Toy companies who learn to cost effectively harness A.I. and to deploy it into creating and delivering to market compelling toys and great play experiences will enjoy great success over the next decade or more.
We run a Consultancy business for toy & game companies. We work with major toy & game companies through to start ups and one person bands. For more information on how we help toy & game companies grow their distribution around the world: www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services
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