Converging Toys, Part II

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by: C. Sven Johnson

Some time back I wrote a blog entry titled, “Converging Toys, Part I
with the intention of writing a “Part II” shortly after. Needless to
say, this follow-up is a long time in coming, but I can’t think of a
better time than now, as it comes so soon after Christmas.

The big story of this Christmas season is probably Webkinz (mentioned earlier in my “Dawn of the Transreality Toys” post). I’ve been seeing blog posts and Twitter entries relaying everything from how popular the Webkinz product is (Link 1, Link 2) to how difficult logging into the Webkinz online world has become (Link 3, Link 4).
An enviable problem to be sure, and one which I suspect we’ll see
repeated as more toy companies explore this development angle and try
to figure out how to replicate Ganz’s success. What’s notable, however,
is how quickly Webkinz’s approach – tangible reality combined with a
virtual component – has been embraced by consumers and other toy companies (Mattel’s BarbieGirls being one of the more heavily discussed since its announcement).

The other notable toy story this year is the less well-known creation from one of the mad scientists who brought us Furby.
This time, it’s the highly responsive toy dinosaur, Pleo, and the MIT
Technology Review (among other notable sites) has covered the pricey,
artificial critter in an article titled, “Robot Dinosaur Finally Released” (Link). It’s a short, worthwhile read.

I’m following this product in particular with some interest, since I
don’t think it’ll be very long before a virtual Pleo is created and the
two are wirelessly linked together in ways that will make Webkinz and
its copycats look downright prehistoric.

When that happens, I suspect a collective light bulb will go off
across the world and we’ll start seeing some extraordinary
developments. At which point one can only wonder how long after the
stupid, miniature dinosaurs before the supertoys arrive.

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