Button-shaped parenting tool makes soft toys speak
“A new device promises to bring children’s most beloved toys to life. Pechat is a button-shaped speaker that can be attached to a soft toy and connects to a parent’s smartphone via Bluetooth. An accompanying app allows the user to make their child’s teddy appear to ‘talk’.
Users can input dialogue using their own voice or text, which the parenting tool reads-out in a cute voice, as if the cuddly toy itself were speaking. Alternatively, users can select pre-recorded phrases, songs and stories or tell the device to respond to or mimic what the child says.
Other useful features include a crying detector, which alerts users when the child is upset and an alarm function, which gives the child instructions in the user’s chosen words. The alarm function could, for instance, be used to suggest a child takes a nap or tell him or her that it’s time to get out of bed or go out.
The device was created in a collaboration between innovation lab HACKist and product innovation team monom, both part of Hakuhodo Inc, Tokyo. A prototype is being exhibited at SXSW 2016 and plans to eventually go commercial are underway.
Contagious Insight /
From snuggly to smart / There are a whole host of intelligent toys on the market, but this device stands out by making unconnected snuggle-buddies smart. This allows for more flexibility, as it’s impossible for parents to control which toys a child will get most attached to. Pechat enables users to enhance whatever a child’s preferred toy might be with useful functionalities.
The solution reminds us of Korean startup Naran’s Microbot Push device, which also makes dumb objects smart. The connected buttons stick onto home appliances and allow them to be turned on and off remotely via an app. Doing this is much cheaper and more convenient than upgrading the appliance itself.
Screenless playtime / There has been a lot of concern in the media about the amount of time young children spend behind screens. In fact, children in the UK spend an average of six and a half hours a day behind screens, according to a 2015 study by market research firm Childwise. No one knows what the long-term effects of this behaviour could be, causing many parents anxiety. Pechat provides an alternative by keeping kids entertained with technology but without a screen in sight.
Harnessing a trusted character / Pechat’s alarm functionality is especially interesting. It allows parents to use a character that their kid trusts to help encourage good behaviour, transforming the toy into a fun parenting aide. A similar idea was created by IDEO in San Francisco for Sesame Workshop. Elmo Calls is an app that enables parents to schedule fake calls from Sesame Street character Elmo to their child. The calls encourage the kid to complete everyday tasks like getting dressed or using the potty.”