Connected Objects Toys

Leka smart toy appeals to parents of developmentally-challenged kids

Not every toy can meet the unique needs of autistic and other special needs children.

Leka is a ball-like, robotic smart toy with a display that has been designed for kids with developmental challenges. The customizable toy is equipped with sensors that enable users to play fun and educational games that motivate social interactions, increase motor, cognitive, and emotional skills, and also stimulate autonomy. Leka can detect and respond to a child’s interaction through autonomous behavior.

For example, if Leka is mistreated and thrown on the ground, it appears to become sad and turns red. An interactive response like this aims to help users better understand social cues and improve their social skills.


WowWee’s simple Lumi drone aims to wow wee and large alike

The advent of drones over the past few years and their steady decline price has led to more and more people enjoying the fun of piloting one. So many, in fact, that even the FCC is more strictly regulating their use. Nevertheless, for all the attention paid to them and the progress they’ve made on ease of use, they can still be complicated to set up, pilot, and maintain over time — hardly a consumer-friendly device.

Developed by the company that produced one of the earliest robot toys, WowWee’s Lumi is an easy-to-use drone designed as a more palatable approach to the sometimes dizzying world of drones. It’s ready to go out of the box, with a simple setup consisting of the loading in of its battery, placement of its beacon, and activation of its app. Once done, its BeaconSense technology allows Lumi to interface with its companion beacon to always know where it is in space.

Connected Objects Kids/Babies Toys

Roominate rPower lets kids build app-powered toy structures

Building toys are classic playtime tools for children. Not only are they entertaining, but they also help children develop important spatial skills. Now with phones, however, children are more interested in using apps to play.

With the Roominate rPower, kids can build all kinds of things with the blocks that Roominate offers including all kinds of rooms and buildings. Some of the blocks come equipped with wires embedded into them. An accompanying app hooks up with those wired blocks and lets kids control certain elements of each room, including lights, elevators, windmills, and fans.

The Roominate rPower, featured on the hit show Shark Tank, has managed to marry the kinetic fun of building toys and the innovation of apps. Not only can they get a feel for the basics of building a house, but they also experience the joy of seeing it run. For a complete set, backers can donate $95 with estimated delivery in November 2015. Roominate is looking for a funding goal of $45,000 on Kickstarter.

Tech Accessories

Brik Case makes customizing MacBooks a snap

Many laptop users like to personalize the tops of their computers, a fun activity often accomplished with stickers. Laptop users, however, may get tired of previously chosen designs. Not helping matters is that many stickers can be extremely hard to fully remove.

The Brik Case offers a novel way for users to more easily customize their laptop. The Brik Case is a customizable laptop case that uses toy bricks which allow users to constantly change the design of their case. The Brik Case was conveniently designed to easily clip on and off MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs, so long as they were manufactured in 2013 or later. Notably, the case isn’t officially licensed by Lego, Mega Bloks, PixelBlocks, Kre-O or K’Nex. Nonetheless, the Brik Case is still compatible with all of those toy bricks. Its maker is planning to ship the case in August with $39.99 pricepoint. Its makers are hoping to raise $30,000 to help pay for the molds, packaging, engineers and the first order of Brik Cases. The campaign end date is slated for April 25.

The Brik Case hold a lot of promise, albeit for a very niche audience: MacBook users who are fans of Lego and other toy bricks. Making a version for Windows PCs would be an obvious move that could significantly expand the market for the case. The product’s Kickstarter campaign, however, makes no mention of such plans in the future.


Quirkbot marries straws and brains for childhood fun and games

Strawbees made it so that everyday straws could be connected together to construct all kinds of interesting shapes and forms. Its simplicity stems from its incredibly basic, small structure that is easily understood by all.

Now, another campaign has come along with the intention of expanding the possibilities of Strawbees. The makers behind Quirkbot have created an Arduino microcontroller that can serve as the brains of any Strawbees creation, allowing users to breathe life into them by programming lights, sounds, and motion. Quirkbot is an extremely versatile “toy to make toys,” and as such imagination is the only thing limiting the potential of what comes from the marriage of both. A donation of $63 gets backers the Quirkbot starter kit with one Quirkbot, 10 LED lights, and one Servo motor. The $55,000 campaign is looking to have the product out by August 2015.

An easy to use visual programming interface tries to make Quirkbot accessible to anyone, so that creations like dogs and hula-hooping humanoid figures can be created. Backpack extensions expand on functionality by adding additional sensors, and when it isn’t being used as the centerpiece of a figure, it can be programmed to act as a controller for any game of application. However, these creations are facing an environment filled with imaginative, creative toys all vying for children’s attention, like Snaak and CubeCraft.

Connected Objects Toys

RC Brick moves building toys, couples smartphones with fun

Building blocks are the, well, building blocks of spatial learning for children. These toys are not only fun, but also allow kids to be creative while they learn to work with their hands.

RC Brick lets kids combine the fun of building things with the convenience of technology. This product works with most brick toys already on the market. It consists of motorized wheels that can move brick creations around. Using a charging cord, RC Brick plugs into any Apple or Android smartphone. The accompanying app lets the user control the movements of their RC Brick.

While this is a fun product that many kids will enjoy, it’s limited by the cord. RC Brick would do well to experiment with Bluetooth technology in order to make their device wireless. Backers will need to donate £27 (~$40) for the base model for estimated delivery in May 2015. RC Bricks hopes to raise £65,000 (~$97,400) on Kickstarter.


Carbon Fiber Tiles add more fun to Lego time

Many kids, and even adults, love building with Lego bricks. The idea of enhancing a Lego-made building, vehicle or other design with tiles made from sheets of high gloss carbon fiber seems like a welcome addition to Lego fun time.

Mark Carpenter of Grand Rapids, Michigan, developed Lego-compatible Carbon Fiber Tiles with his Lego brick-loving sons. He initially began designed black ones sized at 1 x 2 inches each. Backers of the Kickstarter campaign who pledge $14 as part of an early bird special will get a pack of 10 tiles expected to ship this month. The Carpenter family is looking to raise $8,000.

There is certainly an audience for the tiles. But carbon fiber isn’t cheap and it’s questionable how many consumers will spend so much for a handful of tiles when they can opt to get cheaper individual bricks made by Lego at one of its stores that will accomplish much the same thing. There have been other Lego accessories made by third parties in the past, including TinkerBots and Brickmania Track Links. But those two products had more unique purposes and TinkerBots could also be used independently of Lego bricks. The Carpenters will need to push the envelope a little farther in order to make their idea successful.

Kids/Babies Tablet Accessories

Bizee Baby faces inevitable outrage for gluing baby’s eyes to iPads

Trying to enjoy a meal in a non-fast food restaurant with one or more small children is generally something of a hairy situation. Little ones usually don’t have the patience to wait for food to arrive at the table. That’s why BizeeBaby was invented. This gadget keeps little fingers, eyes, ears and, of course ,the mouth busy and stimulated so that mom and dad and maybe even a couple of friends can have an actual conversation that lasts longer than six seconds. While this won’t eliminate the need for a diaper bag, it might be ideal for slipping inside of one, especially since it folds up. And when toys don’t seem to keep baby busy enough, there is an iPad holder so that baby can watch something onscreen.

While the BizeeBaby seems like a quick way to keep your kid distracted, ultimately it doesn’t seem to solve a larger problem of public misbehavior. Pushing the child aside and keeping their attention glued to a screen may not be the best way to parent your kid. This campaign seeks to raise $55,000 by November 28, 2014. For $100, backers get one product and an expected deliverance from mealtime insanity sometime during May 2015.

Kids/Babies Toys

DayRocket shoots up into air, gives fireworks a day off

DayRocketDuring the summer, people love to watch fun lights explode in their backyards whether it’s a firework or Roman candle. Most, however, must wait until night to enjoy these activities. The DayRocket is a fun alternative for those looking to blow something up, safely. Simply load a firecracker into the chamber, place the rocket cap on top and light. It’ll shoot up into the air and is fun for kids to catch. While certainly not as exciting as fireworks, it appears to be an entertaining and safe daytime activity for kids. One goes for $25 and DayRocket hopes to raise $13,500 on Kickstarter.

Connected Objects Maker/Development Toys

Droidles join with each other to attack your robot soft spot

The Premise. Kids get tired of even the most engrossing toys, forcing parents to spend money on video games, smartphone applications, or even more toys to keep them entertained. Most of these options become expensive quickly and lack the tactile benefits attached to interacting with real-world objects.

The Product. Droidles are small, spry little robot toys with tons of personality and charm for both kids and adults. Each Droidle has its own social media page detailing the evolving exploits of its everyday life. Each robot learns on its own through interaction with the environment around it, whatever behaviors you choose to program it with using the free companion iOS/Android app, or even other Droidles. Absolutely no programming language is needed to make a Droidle sing, dance around, follow other Droidles, or simply wander around.

For those among us who are more technologically inclined, the 100% open platform allows for much creative freedom in creating behaviors for these playthings that will ultimately be shareable on the the company’s Web site. The fun doesn’t stop there, though:

The Pitch. Hurley Research is eager to push Droidles to the masses to take advantage of the rich amount of information each will be able to sponge up from the world around them. To convince would-be backers, its pitch video talks up Droidles’ openness as a platform, versatility as a robot, and sheer uniqueness as one of the first internet connected toys along with a detailed list of all the Droidles’ components so you know exactly what you’re getting. $50,000 is the magic number for Droidles to go into production and continuing growing as a platform.

The Perks. Owing to their penchant for swarm intelligence, Droidles are meant to be used in crowds and the campaign’s perks reflect that. You can grab one Droidle for $89

The Potential. Most other robotic toys are either solely focused on entertainment or education. Droidles, on the other hand, manages to bridge that gap by encouraging active participation, a novel form of engagement, and plenty of imagination from all age ranges. Its open platform is compelling for all kinds of tinkerers as well, opening up many doors to experiment with computer intelligence on a much larger scale. Provided Droidles can charm its way into the many homes it will need to be in, we may very well have one of the first Internet of Things phenomenon on our hands.