Last fall, the team at Skookoo, LLC ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund their concept of a storytelling plush toy called Trobo. After a year of work, the company is now shipping the product. Currently there are two plush toy characters named Newton and Curie available for sale. Their stories are designed to foster a love of STEM learning in children aged 2 – 5.
The Trobo concept consists of an iPad app and the talking plush toy. The iPad app contains an interactive scripted story that the child can follow. As the story progresses, the plush toy converts text to speech to narrate the story and any associated dialog. All of the Trobo stories have science or math themes. One of the first stories describes how bees make honey. The company currently offers about 5 other stories with many more in the works.
The plush toy sells for $69.99 and additional story content currently runs $4.99 for each story. Stories include interactive graphics. Trobo is more of a story narrator than a conversational toy. But Trobo’s speech technology, coupled with the scripted educational apps, is well-suited for the purpose of engaging edutainment.
I wrote about several conversational toys earlier this year and it seems that the trend towards talking toys will continue. Mattel’s controversial Hello Barbie is available on preorder now and set to ship in days. The CogniToys Dino is also available for preorder. As more of these toys ship and get into the hands of children, it will be interesting to observe what children like and perhaps dislike about them. Children the world over have always wished their toys could talk. Now that they can, the challenge is on the toy makers to ensure the toys have something interesting to say.