These Smart Toys Encourage Kids to Be Active, Without Abandoning the iPad


Many parents wonder if their kids are spending way too much time in the digital world, and not enough in the physical one. Will they ever learn that not all magazines are touch-screen?! 

The design firm frog has a new answer to parents who wish their children would put down the iPad and go outside. Yibu is a conceptual system where kids would use real toys to control the plot of digital games. 

The system would include five wooden toys embedded with sensors to measure environmental changes like differences in temperature, wind, light, sound, and direction.

The idea is that kids would have to figure out how changes in their own environment affect the characters in the digital game they’re playing—a polar bear in the game, for instance, might start to sweat if the heat-sensitive toy is in the sun, and the child would have to figure out how to cool it down. Or a motion-sensitive toy could be manipulated to steer a vehicle in the game.

Granted, kids might balk at the need to leave their screens to go stick a wooden toy in the fridge to cool down their digital polar bear. It would be easy for the physical toys to feel like extraneous additions to a game, rather than an engaging, integral component, and having a light-sensitive wooden toy might not be that fun outside of specific in-game uses. On the other hand, it can be hard to tear kids away from the endless distraction of tablets and YouTube Kids, and it would be nice to have an option to let them play digital games while making sure they don’t tune out the world around them.

Yibu is just a concept right now, so don’t expect to pick these up at the local toy store anytime soon. The firm is currently prototyping two of the wooden toys, but sadly, unless a company comes forward looking to develop the system, it’ll probably remain just a dream for design-minded parents. On the bright side, you can get cool-looking, long-lasting wooden toys minus the sensors from websites like Buy Me Once, which focuses on products you won’t have to throw away after a year. 

All images courtesy frog.