Roam & Wander’s plush toys aim to convert the typical iPhone and iPad into tactile and interactive educational toys.
Kids today are growing up as digital natives. Most infants, toddlers and school-aged children would be introduced at devices like smartphones and tablets at an early age. One might even be surprised at how adept young children can be in manipulating on-screen elements on a touchscreen device. This does have its disadvantages, though, with studies pointing out tablet use tends to stifle creative thinking among young children.
Hong Kong- and Taipei-based startup Roam & Wander wants to leverage the growing interest in digital devices in building educational toys and content for pre-school aged children. In 2013, the company conceptualized two plush toys: TuTu the bunny and DiDi the teddy bear. In that year, the startup launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for TuTu, which is essentially an iPhone and iPod touch case that turns the device into the bunny’s face, along with interactive elements.
Roam & Wander’s latest crowdfunding campaign is for its DiDi toy, which encases a standard-sized iPad and turns it into the bear’s face and belly. Interactive additions include “Magic Touch” toys, which are hardware implements that interact with the smartphone or tablet’s screen through capacitive multi-touch points.
The DiDi package includes Magic Touch toys, such as fruits, vegetables and milk cartons, which can be used to feed the bear. And when he’s had his fill, kids can then use the Magic Touch toothbrush to clean up the bear before bedtime.
In an earlier interview with this writer, Jason Warren, Roam & Wander founder and CEO, says the company aims to “reimagine the way software, devices and toys come together to create new entertainment and learning experiences for kids.” Apart from the app and the plush toys, the company also mails actual stickers to its users for accomplishing tasks and unlocking achievements.
Warren actually started conceptualizing the company’s toys three years back, when he moved to Taipei to help lead HTC’s cloud offerings. “In 2011 I realized that touch screen devices like the iPad are replacing the television as the primary screen for kid’s entertainment.” The focus on having a mix of physical and digital game elements was intentional on Roam & Wander’s part. “With so many aspects of our life become more digital, we all want our kids to stay engaged with the physical world,” Warren shared.
The campaign for DiDi has started on Kickstarter, with a goal of $25,000. A $25 contribution gets backers the DiDi package, complete with plush toy, app and accessories, valued at $60. The first 100 backers actually get a TuTu package, too. As of writing, the DiDi campaign has garnered $1,506 in pledges from 50 backers, with 29 days to go.
Roam & Wander received series A funding from WI Harper Group and Taiwanese venture firm TMI, the same firm behind Taipei’s HWTrek. Resources went into developing the manufacturing capacity for the startup’s products, as well as the smartphone and tablet apps. Warren hopes that even with the dominance of digital gaming and play today, Roam & Wander’s toys can “provide a fantastic creative canvas for delivering interactive experiences.”
Roam & Wander targets to launch DiDi into the market by August this year.