A Research Project on Hybrid Experiences

Makie Dolls

Makie Dolls 4Makies are 3D printed dolls. User customizes the doll’s facial features in MakieLab web service after which the doll is printed and shipped. Through the service, additional clothes and accessories are also available.

The lowering costs of 3D printing sees companies adapting the technology to new sectors, such as customizable toys. MakieLab lets customers closely define the appearance – face, skin color, hair type and color – of the elf-like Makie doll via a related web service. Users are able to create as many virtual Makies as they want and then order the creations they like as 3D printed dolls. The service can then be used to shop from a wide variety of additional doll clothes and accessories. Makies support more extensive customizing, too, as the doll’s head can be fitted with electronics, such as Lilypad Arduino sets, Bluetooth, and RFID tags, for further tinkering.

While the price tag of roughly 80€ is not necessarily too high for children, high-end collectible toys are often embraced by adult aficionados. This kind of business model strongly relies on the community, as the users are encouraged to create custom content and share design tips and photos.

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Ubooly 1

Ubooly is a plush creature that comes alive when you place an iDevice inside of it. Ubooly can then tell jokes and stories, make conversation, even recognizing users’ pitch. Ubooly can also be customized to teach children math and science.    

Launched through a Kickstarter campaign, Ubooly is a “slip-in” hybrid toy, aimed mostly at kids. Users first buy the Ubooly plushie and then download the free app. The interactive face of Ubooly can be customized and it talks back when spoken to. Similar to Furby, two Uboolies can recognize each other and have conversation.

The toy is also a service, as Ubooly downloads interactive content every month over wifi, including games, stories, and adventures. The initial download includes over four hours of content and the company estimates that there will be roughly half an hour worth of extra content per month. Content packs are available as in-app purchases.

In Ubooly Lab parents can customize Ubooly to teach their child new languages, math, and ocean biology, among other things. After this Ubooly’s data can be accessed to see how the kids are progressing. Other features include Ubooly walking kids through teeth brushing, i.e. making the two minute brushing session more engaging via a song or a story, changing it each time to keep it fresh.

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Disney Infinity

Disney Infinity 4Disney Infinity is a line of toys that can be transported into a digital game of the same name. The characters are based on popular Disney characters and form different play-sets that each contain a campaign of its own.

With Disney Infinity players place specific character figurines on a special pedestal to activate their digital equivalents in a digital game of the same name. As such, it stands as direct competition to Activision’s Skylanders. Playing takes form viaplay-sets”, which provide access to the different campaign games, sized around six hours in playtime. Characters and play-sets from Monsters University, The Incredibles, and Pirates of the Caribbean are featured, among others. The campaigns are widely varied and differ from each other in play style, too. The play-set stories are designed to function with a particular set of characters, meaning that each play-set only supports characters from its own franchise.

The characters can, however, be mixed in the Toy Box mode, a sort of a sandbox game creator mode, where players are able to create their own game experiences. There are also special coin collectibles that unlock particular Disney themed objects in the Play Box mode. These coins can be purchases in blind packs – sealed and unseen before purchase. As such, they can be easily placed in cereal boxes and the like.

Rather than a new game franchise, Disney sees Infinity as a platform for games, most likely suggesting that the company aims for continuing figurine sales as it introduces new franchises.

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Little Printer

Little Printer is a mini-sized, online connected printer that prints on paper roughly a size of a receipt. It can be used to print black and white pictures, puzzles such as Sudoku, shopping lists, etc. Via the online connection, users can also print messages remotely.

Little Printer holds a compact, inkless, thermal printer. It is constructed in high-gloss injection moulded plastic. Brushed steel faceplate holds the paper, framing each delivery as it prints. The printer features a zero-configuration wireless connection to the Web (via the included Bridge unit) allowing easy placement.

An associated service lets Little Printer users to subscribe to different kinds of content, or “publication”, be it regularly released puzzles, news, how-to’s, pictures etc. Little Printer can also gather a content package together to create a kind of miniature newspaper, delivered at chosen intervals. New content is created regularly. The printer can be controlled remotely with a smart phone, thus allowing users for example to print a message or a shopping list to a spouse at home.

With its pixel-art content and cute-over-efficiency attitude, Little Printer stands as a striking example of materiality and tactility striking back. To value it is to see why a printed love note is better than a text message.

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Laser Pegs construction set

20130313-133506.jpgLaser Pegs are a construction set featuring lights in the pieces. When connected to a power source, power travels through the creations from brick to brick, lighting the whole construction. An iPad app lets users to remote control lights and design unique models.

Laser Pegs is a LED lighted construction set for children. Laser Pegs light up by using long-lasting LED lights inside the building blocks. A science toy in disguise, it enables children to create limitless designs or just have fun piecing light together while at the same time teaching them how light travels. Laser Pegs pieces are also compatible with other major building block sets such as Lego.

The next generation of Laser Pegs toys will allow users to control the lights on their creations using an The iPad app also features a 3D construction kit. Using the drag-and-drop interface, users are able to build without limitation, and then order their design to receive it in the mail. “You can design whatever you want to design – any shape, any size”, Jon Capriola, CEO at Laser Pegs promises. Users will be able to share their creations via Facebook and Twitter. Construction manuals can also be compiled and shared. Capriola also said that Laser Pegs is considering holding design contests for kids. “We’re trying to make a community.”

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LEGO CUUSOO 3Started by Lego in 2008, Lego CUUSOO is a website that allows users to submit ideas for Lego products to be turned into potential sets. Currently, three sets have been released with a fourth one in pre-production.

Users may create a page about their proposed idea for a set. Once the project reaches 10,000 supporters it is reviewed by the Cuusoo team who then decide on whether to produce it. Currently three sets have been produced: Shinkai 6500 (a Japanese research submarine), Hayabusa (a Japanese satellite) and Minecraft Microworld (based on the hit game). A fourth set based on the DeLorean time machine from the Back to the Future movies is in pre-production.

A number of sets based on specific intellectual properties have been rejected because due to the content matter presented. References to alcohol, sex, drugs, religious references, post-WWII warfare and for example FPS games are deemed inappropriate for younger Lego fans. Such rejected IPs include, among others, Firefly and Shaun of the Dead. Lego also rejected My Little Pony -themed project due to the property being owned by rival toy manufacturer Hasbro.

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TheO 1TheO is a set of apps usable with a specialty made foam ball. In order to use TheO, users place a smart device in the ball. The ball then supports various games and activities played by rolling or throwing it.

TheO is a custom made foam ball combined with dedicated mobile apps that facilitate various physical games and activities. TheO ball can be safely rolled, tossed and bounced, with the smart device protected safely and securely inside, while players physically interact with each other.

Harnessing the various sensors and features current smart phones support, TheO apps turn the simple foam ball into a “smart ball” capable of various sorts of mobile play. The initial apps include a Bowling game where players can play each other in the same room, displayed on the smart phone, or any IP-enabled device, or with friends across the web. Additional custom apps include a physically active Hot Potato game and a socially interactive game called Interrogo. Besides taking advantage of the smart device features such as acceleration sensing, direction and motion sensing, the apps harness sound and also Bluetooth capabilities, allowing TheO to link with additional accessories.