The future of smart toys
In this hyper digitised world, technology is evolving rapidly and chaotically. Often a 'natural' curve gets disrupted, and tech simply follows this disruption until the next one. Since a two-word abstract might not suffice for a prediction, let's try the next best thing — a reasonable approximation.
By 2026, the global smart toys market is expected to hit around $69.9 billion. The increasing prominence of the Internet of Toys concept — toys that connect to the internet, and, by that to each other — might have something to do with this. This means an increased flow of data, which comes with an ever-increasing set of security concerns.
Given these variables, it can be hard to accurately forecast the future of smart toys. However, we can look at areas likely to become focal points in this journey.
We live in a generation where parents are comfortable with technology but are also increasingly concerned about their children's security. This will become a crucial selling point in the explosive growth of smart toys.
At present, while many brands aren't actively advertising or explaining data security measures, they will soon have to. We're likely to see this feature punctuate brand communications and identity. 'The most secure smart toy' might become a heavy selling point, perhaps over the smartness itself.
Supply chain management
The growth of the smart toy market is linked (naturally) to the quick delivery of toys. Effectively managing this and, perhaps, making a product available in online and physical forms might mean having a competitive advantage.
Likewise, higher levels of tech support will also be necessary. Toy companies will have to start projecting for increasing loads as the complexity of product design increases.
We're likely entering a golden period of innovation for smart toys — more hover-based toys, voice/image and biometric recognition, wearable toys, etc.
Existing technologies will expand their range of gameplay and new ones will certainly appear. AI will be increasingly sophisticated in its role; toys will learn from (and about) children to provide largely adaptive and responsive play experiences.
We might see toys delivering play experiences based on softer, less 'metric heavy' aspects of a child's personality — personal feelings towards people/external stimuli, confidence levels, and evolving emotional pillars. (Think of Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’, except as a play experience/toy!)
Varying price ranges
Smart toys will become increasingly customisable. Like mobile data packages, with a basic model, you can likely keep adding features as you please. This would enable brands to penetrate multiple economic tiers without keeping the products exclusive.
Undoubtedly, more complex concepts in STEM will find their way into toys. Think genetic engineering, nuclear science, and much more. However, it remains to be seen whether STEM will remain in an exclusive bubble or merge more with others.
For example, will we have toys that apply genetic engineering ideas to painting and other art? It might even be reasonable to assume that toys will start ‘creating’ job areas earlier than we think.
The future will move more towards adaptability, built on certain scientific principles. Coming generations will rely on the ability to effortlessly flit between fairly opposite ‘work areas’. Smart toys might have a huge role in cultivating this adaptability.
The new meta-verse world
The idea of ‘second worlds’ will expand, meaning more adoption and engagement with roleplay-based (sandbox) environments. Here, kids get to live another ‘life’ (a digital one).
They get to be creators, socialise with friends, cultivate, earn and maintain a digital economy. Their cultural capital will deepen, except this will all tie up with learning objectives suited to various ages.
Ties with education
Early childhood education is likely to have a more symbiotic relationship with smart toys. Given their capabilities, these toys would be used more actively and across more geographies.
Their scope could increase to formal classroom settings, and not just as secondary and complementary tools.
We can expect smart toys to be used as more ‘serious’ teaching aids, tools to check homework, create personalised curriculums, and much more.
It’s safe to assume an increasing prevalence of smart toys, but what will oscillate is the acceptance and sentiment towards them. While more people are beginning to view smart toys as a necessary part of childhood, it will be interesting to see how parents (and other entities) react to this rapidly evolving space, given divergent perspectives on digitally shared childhoods.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)