As Valtech has worked on toys for Disney and Mattel over the last couple years, it has become clear that there are important things to concentrate on for a successful execution. First, you need to make the interaction with the toy deeply personalized and custom for each individual playing with it. Second, you need a strong narrative. Not every toy needs a pre-canned story, but they all need the ability for someone to creatively spin a tale of their own. Finally, while the technology behind a connected toy can be incredibly complex, it needs to disappear for the person playing with it. The user experience and user interface need to be simple enough for anyone to use while surprising them with unexpected elements. The companies and toys listed below are doing a great job with those three priorities.
When I was a kid, my mom had her bowling league every Wednesday night. My brother, dad, and I had a guys’ night every week. We watched Buck Rogers and ate popcorn, but most importantly we got to eat dessert before dinner. That’s what Sphero is to this article, the desert before dinner. This company is killing it.
Kids into Star Wars? Sphero introduced the BB-8 Droid a couple years ago, and you can now control the little guy with The Force using the Sphere Force Band wearable. New this year is R2-D2, an incredibly accurate replica of our favorite little droid. The movement, beeps and boops are enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face, but the killer feature is watching Star Wars movies alongside R2. Sphero’s “Watch with Me” feature allows all of your droids to react to the movies as the whole gang watches. It’s incredible.
Sphero has added to the fun with Marvel’s Spider-Man, which is kind of like a kid’s version of Amazon Alexa where you can ask it questions, have it turn smart devices on and off, and have it guard your room.
Pixar is represented with the Lightning McQueen RV car that does what you would expect as far as remote controlled cars go, but adds all kinds of personality with “Reactive Touch”, a feature that moves the car and changes its eye expression in response to being touched on the hood, trunk, sides, or top.
So, you could say that we’re big fans of Sphero around here. They understand more than most toy companies what makes a connected toy a success. You can tell their main criteria is the question “will this be fun?”. They mix into their toys the perfect amounts of really cool technology, ease of use, and personality.