20 February 2005
When I first came to understand RFID, at the Digital ID World conference in 2003, I became excited about how it could be used to create things that tell you stories. I was mostly thinking about books and other items that people collect, and some way of communicating the lifecycle, or social life, of those collectables. What I didn't think about at all, and certainly wouldn't have expected to see so soon, was RFID's use in mass-market toys. WorldChanging reports on two new toys that bring the uncanny world of animate toys closer:
Naoru-kun, a new doll by Bandai... speaks 150 phrases and responds when it's shaken hands, hugged, petted, etc. But when Naoru-kun gets sick, kids have to use one of the items including "syringe," "candy" and "medicine." The doll reads RFID tags embedded in these items and responds accordingly.
Little Tikes has a series of toy kitchens full of interactive technology. The MagiCook Kitchen, for example, comes with pretend food embedded with electronic tags that can be read by sensors on the stovetop which then respond with the appropriate comment.
Freud taught us that "children do not distinguish at all sharply between living and inanimate objects" and that "children have no fear of their dolls coming to life, they may even desire it", so seemingly animate toys make a lot of sense. Do you think they're more likely to be broken by children following that "first metaphysical stirring" described by Charles Baudelaire in The Philosophy of Toys:
The child twists and turns his toy, he scratches it, shakes it, bangs it against the wall, throws it on the ground. From time to time, he forces it to resume its mechanical motions, sometimes backwards. Its marvellous life comes to a stop. The child... finally prises it open... But where is its soul?
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At last years's GDC Europe I met Stuart Nolan from NESTA, who gave a presentation on combining soft toys with technology. He posited that Toy Aware Locations (TALs) using RFID,Bluetooth, GRS could result in the soft toy becoming a ticket. Thus, the ticket/toy can be reused and the ticket/toy becomes a friend, a pass into locations, a gaming partner, a journal (where movements would be recorded so that a record of the child's life could be permanently stored in a digital 'lifecache'.) The TAL concept removes the technology as much as possible from the toy and places it into the environment leaving the toy to be as simple, lovable, and washable as possible (teddy bears will always be more loved than a furby.) Take a look here for more: http://www.druh.co.uk/base/stuart.html
Posted by: Mark Taylor at 10 Apr 2005 12:05:34