This summer I took a two week trip to Italy. And I’m not writing that to instill jealousy. It was a great time and the relaxation was much appreciated. But while I was there, I noticed an interesting common of nearly every town and city I visited.They all had a square, often near the population center, where tourists and locals and people from all walks of life congregated. Whether they were making plans, on their way somewhere, or just hanging out and people-watching, the square was usually bustling. Many of the larger squares were inhabited by people (presumably Italians) selling toys. And by toys I don’t mean stuffed animals or inanimate race cars.
These toys were electronically integrated and connected. In the day, troupe of tiny men made out of faux-wood blocks busted out an energetic dance routine on a mat laid out on the street. At night other vendors tried to sell small colored LED devices which they launched high in the air and then caught as they helicopter back down to earth. Others sold miniature strobe lights, which could be held in one’s hand and then projected over a wide area of ground, autonomously shifting in color and pattern like a kaleidoscope.
As technology gets smaller, progresses further, and spreads more widely, as manufacturing becomes cheaper and speedier, as the crowdfunding financial model develops, the toy and gaming industry will experience a revolution. They already are, most people just don’t know it yet. I am not talking about video games and software either. I’m talking about connected hardware like the helicopter sling shot I mentioned, or Drum Pants or Sphero. It is becoming more and more easy to 3D print, prototype, and troubleshoot connected circuitry. Processes like injection molding give product designers a huge range of flexibility in selecting the form they want to give to their idea.
As time passes, the amount of amazing connected toys that offer diverse, and often baffling new ways to entertain us will exponentially increase. Once the capabilities of Chinese manufacturing and 3D printing technology develops to the level it is at in the U.S. currently, there will be vast growth in the number of entrepreneurs, companies, and startups seeking to jump on the connected hardware bandwagon.
Connected kitchen devices like SpreadTHAT! are already ahead of the game. The hardware revolution is a boon for toy aficionados, makers, entrepreneurs, and most importantly, consumers.