Children today are “never off”: growing numbers are flitting between digital and physical worlds through transmedia play, according to speakers at the Digital Kids Conference in New York last week (February 18-19).
All members of a panel of children aged eight to 12 reported that they had access to at least 10 devices in their homes; one even claimed to have access to 37 devices at home. And with more tech products for children coming to market, that figure looks set to rise.
Smartwatches are next. Hong Kong-based tech firm VTech plans to release its Kidizoom smartwatch for children later this year. The smartwatch would let the wearer take photos, record videos and play games on a 1.4” wrist-top touchscreen.
“Personalisation and open-ended play are definitely the buzzwords of 2014,” Adrienne Appell, a trend expert at the Toy Industry Association (TIA) in the US, said in a statement. “Toymakers are giving [children] more freedom than ever to play exactly how they want.”
One technology that could transform customised play and the ways in which digital experiences are translated into the real world is 3D printing. While 3D printing toys is not a scalable business model, providing the design templates and printers is, according to Alice Taylor, chief executive of London-based toy company MakieLab, and Antoine Vu, executive director of French digital studio Atomic Soom. Take note of the partnership between global toy giant Hasbro and US 3D printing firm 3D Systems, announced last week.