Trend analysts are unanimous: tech toys are the future. Parents and teachers alike agree that learning tech literacy early on is essential for kids, but many simultaneously feel that the stationary, screen-reliant nature of tech as designed for adults just doesn’t fit the needs of early learners. Enter tech toys — the new cornerstone of elementary learning in a post-millennial age. Tech toys are so new to market, however, that we can expect to see a lot of big changes over the next few years. Here, we’ll take a look at what the future might hold.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. Developers in the EdTech field are not oblivious to this need, and Maker teams like New York City-based Elemental Path are already hard at work trying to combine the right tech experience with the right playtime experience to introduce kids to STEM at an earlier age than ever before. At the end of the day, it comes down to integrating essential learning fundamentals with good, old-fashioned fun.
It was with this winning combination in mind that Elemental Path unveiled the CogniToys Dino in early 2015. In addition to knowing tons of math and science trivia, the Dino is able to answer questions in real time. Cofounder JP Benini explains: "A 5-year-old can ask 100 questions a day, so we asked ourselves — what if this thing never gets tired of answering 'why?' That's how the idea began." As the very first smart toy of its kind, the Dino has since won many prestigious EdTech awards, but the Elemental Path team is only just getting started. “We have a lot of great things planned for the next few years,” continues Benini. “We think that smart toys are the future of learning, and we’re excited to be a big part of that future.”
By 2024, there will be a projected 4.4 million jobs in computer and IT occupations — a 12 percent growth rate from 2014, outpacing that of all other occupations. What this comes down to is simple: computers are an integral part of the future, and learning basics such as coding at an early age can only put kids ahead of the learning curve and on the right track for success in later life. But what does that have to do with toys? Well, kids learn best through play, and it’s easier than you might think to make coding a part of playtime.
At the elementary level, coding is more about teaching patterns than anything else, and kids can learn these patterns by creating different event series that lead to the same result. Toys like Fisher Price’s Codeapillar already apply these lessons in a very basic way, but the market is crying out for more dynamic and adaptable coding toys, and it’s only a matter of time before developers begin to answer that call.
The leap from “interactive” to “intuitive” is a short one, but it makes all the difference. An interactive toy can answer questions using a series of preprogrammed responses, whereas an intuitive toy uses AI technology to interpret questions and answer accordingly. When it comes to intuitiveness, the CogniToys Dino is lightyears ahead of its time, but that doesn’t mean that the quest for an intuitive toy is over just yet. AI technology is improving every day, and those improvements can be applied to the toy industry just as they can the tech industry.
As advancements in this sphere continue to be revealed, consumers can expect toys that don’t just answer, but understand. The toys of the future may even be able to determine emotion through things like voice inflections and changes in tone — and respond accordingly.
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