Online experiences for Toys not new
Lego (one of my preferred toy) has an online Club, where those who sign up receive additional information. GIJoe has online games, and has cleverly disguised its advertisements as online experiences.
Childrens Physical toys to have cross online experience
A while ago I covered how Fisher Price is starting kids listening to Podcasts and taking digital pictures at an early age. Now, toy companies are seeing the benefit of having a dual experience with their toys as the Internet continues to mainstream at home, and especially with the younger generation.
According to the Associated Press this cross medium experience will continue to heat up:
&Toy companies are looking at where kids are playing and targeting product against it. Younger and younger kids are becoming more comfortable with the Internet, said New York-based toy consultant Chris Byrne&
The article links to Bandai, which has an interesting interactive experience where kids can enter in secret codes for additional experience.
Could tie to Social Networking for Kids
A while back I covered Club Penguin, (before it got big) and its continuing to take off and be the MySpace of children. Club Penguin is in a real position of power, I know several parents who tell me their kids do chores to earn money so they can spend it in Club Penguin to improve their igloo and do other events. Theres tremendous cross-marketing opportunities for Club Penguin and other toy manufactures.
The Future: Toys will be connected to the Internet, Children to continue to network amongst themselves
I would expect future toys to have a USB connector, and then WiFi, so a website can make the experience interactive. Imagine, those kids toys will come to life and start teaching children their ABCs or other dynamic content that a website and parents can control. Theres already some very basic toys with USB connections such as this Hello Kitty toy. Why not extend the mimicking of this laptop with supplemental information that can get your kid ahead in school?
Of course, protective parents (thats repetitive isnt it?) will raise concerns with privacy, and demand that websites dont harvest information or expose children to dangers, and of course, I agree. OnGuard provides these ethical guidelines and watchgroups that review online spaces for parents. Microsoft created this guideline as a resource for parents.
Generation Next: Digital Native
For many companies this all makes sense, why should a company limit the experience of their toys to only the physical world, with the internet, and maybe (and carefully) connect with other kids. Theyre going to be online from an early age, and will be very comfortable interacting with each other online.