Today’s Smart Toy

Sounds and toys go together like milk and cookies.  If a toy doesn’t have a sound a child will add their own. Just as the phonograph was miniaturized and integrated into pull-string talking dolls and toys (see Mattel’s iconic See ‘N Say) so every new media technology either emerges from the laboratories of the toy industries, or gets downsized and ends up in a toy.

Many of today’s toys make sounds and are animated – and for good reason – because they interact with children on a direct, primal level.

Voice Express has played an active role in the toy industry for over 15 years, providing self-playing media solutions to toy manufacturers. We have provided all varieties of media players, starting from simple low-cost melody solutions, to pre-programmed sound effects and licensed music, as well as, recordable voice products and vibrating heart-beats.  We haven’t put one of our video screens in a toy yet, but as prices continue to drop, it’s sure to come.

Examples of Self-Playing Media in Toys

Build-A-Bear’s Build-A-Sound™

We have worked with Build-A-Bear since their beginnings as the exclusive provider of sounds for the Build-A-Sound™ line of products. We provide a wide variety of sound chips, including a heartbeat module that vibrates to mimic the sound of the heart. We also provide a patented solution to allow web-store visitors to record sounds over the phone and have their personal message or unique sound effect added to a Build-A-Bear ordered online.

Read the original Build-A-Bear case study.

Build-A-Bear’s Universal Sound Module

A great example of self-playing media technology in toys is the development of the universal sound module for Build-A-Bear’s award winning Digital HearMe Station. We combine self-playing media with proprietary near field communication technology to allow users to “magically” program the universal sound modules at the kiosk. This technology can easily be translated into many other markets.

Read the Universal Sound case study.

Challenges In The Toy Industry

The biggest challenge in the toy industry is cost. One of the objectives of toy manufacturers is to create a smart toy which mimics the effects and interactions of more sophisticated programs and electronics and to do so in a simple and inexpensive fashion that provides a realistic experience for the child.

A great example is voice recognition. A fully capable voice recognition system would need a small (and costly) microprocessor. For less complex applications such as the ability to respond in an intelligent manner to particular phrases using a predefined vocabulary (e.g. Hallmark’s Interactive Story Buddies), we can utilize much more cost effective technology that still provides an excellent experience… Think of a furry friend that can interact like Siri

Smart Toys Of The Future

Toys of the future will be able to interact with children in an increasingly “natural” way. They will be connected to local or cloud-based networks via wireless technology and will be able to process information and respond and interact with children in a manner that was unimaginable, just a few years ago.

The smart toy technologies are already available. As costs continue to decline, these smart toy and connected toy technologies will become more accessible and scaled-down versions of WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, NFC (near field communication) and both active and passive RFID will permit an increasingly complex range of interactions to be made possible. The smart toys of the future will be able to talk and address their “owners”, progressively learning from their experiences and bringing smiles and thrills of delight from young and old.

How Voice Express Can Help

Are you interested in bringing self-playing media and related smart toy technologies to a toy? We’re here to help. Over the years, Voice Express has developed strong relationships with technology providers who are constantly developing and making available new technologies for the toy industry. If you can imagine it, we can make it happen.

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