At CES, Family Tech Grows Up

ILY at CES 2016. Photo by Child's Play Communications.Most of the 170,000 guests at CES 2016 last week checked out the latest developments in driverless cars, virtual reality and artificial intelligence— mind-blowing innovations that in most cases won’t have real impact for years to come. My visit, meanwhile, was much more focused on new products that will directly impact children and parents in the near future. Family tech is a growing part of CES, as well as of our own business here at Child’s Play.

Family phones. Most parents agree that kids younger than tweens shouldn’t have their own mobile phones. Our client, Insensi, launched ILY, a new kind of home phone for families. An attractive touchscreen device that sits in a central location in the home, it enables all generations to video chat and more with loved ones, with just one tap. Meanwhile, Yip Yap lets parents route calls to the Pipsqueak phone for kids, which can also be used to play games or watch videos.

Child wearables. Non-existent just a few years ago, this category is starting to come into its own and most typically has tracking as its goal. At this year’s CES, various devices not only determined a child’s whereabouts but in some cases reported on his or her vital signs or simply entertained. Child Angel provides feedback on a child’s heart rate and temperature and alerts parents if there is movement out of the ordinary, such as a fall. DokiWatch is a smartwatch for kids and also a wearable phone. It enables video calls and voice messaging and even includes a Doki pet that lives in the device and acts as a fitness tracker – the more active kids are, the bigger and stronger their virtual pet grows.



The connected nursery. Products that report in detail on a baby’s health and development are proliferating as baby monitoring has gone high tech.  Mimo, Hatch Baby, Snuzza and others use smart clip-ons, kimonos, diaper changing pads and crib sheets to provide feedback, variously, on data including baby’s breathing, temperature, position/movement, sleep habits and growth.

Making daily activities fun. Kolibree and Playbrush turn brushing teeth into a game for kids while reporting how well they have brushed to parents. Slow Control offers toddler feeding utensils that use Bluetooth to animate characters in an accompanying toy.

Next-gen toys. More companies are focusing on getting kids up and moving. Moff, which won a KAPi Award at the show, is a wearable smart toy. Connect the Moff band to a smart device and move along to sounds that are generated in sync with a child’s arm movements for “gamified fitness.” SuperSuit from MadRat Games is a wearable gaming platform for kids and families, comprising a vest that records scores, a glove that enables interactivity between players and a beacon that can sense other players and fire back at them. It is designed to take kids outdoors to interact with one another in non-violent games.

Robots the whole family could love. Spin Master, which introduced its first Meccanoid robot at last year’s CES, followed up this year with Meccasaur T-Rex, an interactive, fully programmable robotic dinosaur for kids to build and program, and Micronoids, smaller robots that can be programmed to dance, sing, navigate obstacle courses and interact with each other. And while it’s not quite a toy – and currently available only in China – AvatarMind demonstrated iPal, a child-size companion robot for kids that talks, dances, tells stories, plays games, and enables chatting with friends and access to social media.

Some of these products are on the market, others still in prototype stage, but all great fun to experience at the show. It will be interesting to see where they are when next year’s CES rolls around.