For as long as people have had the ability to let kids play instead of learning valuable survival skills, there have been toys. Dolls and figures exist in various forms around the world. Balls are among the most ubiquitous of items, along with the games they're played with. As the modern age approaches, you start seeing things like ball joints that allow for greater ranges of motion or electronic toys that offer a level of interactivity.
Of course, for many, the future lies in the use of electronic toys. As circuit boards, with their transistors and Scondar connectors and diodes, become smaller and more integral, the toy industry is starting to change. In fact, it isn't just electronics that could change the game. Here are a few ways where advancing technologies could easily change how our kids play in the future.
Play Spaces Anywhere and Everywhere
Kids these days are growing up as "digital natives," people who view technology differently from generations that came before. They look to it differently, both as tools (the way most adults do) and as creative outlets. Imagine the days when kids could make up entire games and worlds, having hours of fun by themselves, with nothing more than an empty cardboard box. Now, give them a digital toolset and watch what happens.
Increasingly, what you do when you play is more important than where you do you're playing. Technology can bridge the gap between the digital toys kids have and the physical ones. Kids already don't see a divide between the two, so the next natural step is to help both become outlets for creativity and imagination.
Smart infrastructure might create play areas that would otherwise not be conducive to it. Kids these days are tech-savvy, at least to an extent. Smart infrastructure can help create virtual environments accessible through kid-friendly devices, allowing the young to turn any space with the right access into a virtual play area. This combination of electronic play and the outdoors can lead to the creation of a whole new experience for kids.
3D Print Your Own Toys
The advent of 3D printing could also change the game for the toy industry. While it isn't going to be available to every home any time soon, the technology does exist. The ability to 3D print one's own toys, perhaps using a custom design made in computer software or downloaded schematics from the internet, can let kids dictate what their toys look like. It gives an incredible amount of control to the people playing and can let them dictate the terms of how they want to enjoy themselves.
Talking To Your Toys
Another interesting avenue, one that plays with artificial intelligence and possibly augmented reality, is kids talking to their toys. Kids do that now, but they only imagine the responses. However, the time may come when the replies are real, the result of advancing intelligence.
Chatbots and other interactive AIs are slowly becoming more and more complex, able to learn and understand. Many are also developing their own characteristics and personalities. Applying this to future toy technology could allow children to have a video chat with their favorite characters, virtually displayed and responding using advanced AI algorithms to put together their replies. It's possible they might even design their own characters for the AI to play.
Educational functions might also be improving in the future. Take for example jellycat. Sensors in screens are becoming more and more complicated and sensitive, while also resilient. Some technology experts think that the time is coming when they might be sensitive enough to emulate devices we only normally see in science fiction.
The day may come when children place things like soil and materials on the screens of their gadgets, getting a basic analysis from an app using sensors on the touchscreen to detect and identify. Educational apps might change what children see on screen to help illustrate things like the ultraviolet-based vision of bees or the limited color spectrum seen by certain animals. These possibilities could be great teaching tools while still keeping kids active, and perhaps even encouraging them to get out into the world.
Connectivity is also a way for the toy industry to move forward. We already see hints of this in multiplayer gaming on consoles and PCs. The ability to play with other people around the world, sharing a similar experience, can be an exhilarating one for kids.
However, smart infrastructure and smart toys can pave the way for doing that beyond the confines of a video game. The promise of interactive toys, now connecting to and interacting with others in a global network, could come to fruition.
It's no secret that technology changes how kids play. The ubiquity of electronics and other technologies today has created a generation that has grown up around digital tools, digital outlets, and digital play spaces. Kids have always been comfortable with embracing new technologies, so it's not surprising to see that the way they'll play in the future is shaped by new tech to come.
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