It all started with lamps.
My wife and I bought two lamps for our bedroom last year. They are nice, but they are not easy to turn on from the bed. I bought wireless remotes for the lamps, but they misfired too much (I would turn on the lamp on my wifeâ€™s side instead of mine).
I learned about Philips Hue. They seemed like a perfect solution for us. You can control the lights with your phone, no more misfires. Eventually, I realized you need to open an app every time you want to turn a light on (I know it is a stupid problem, let me have this).
I discovered that Amazonâ€™s Echo home assistant worked with my lighting system. Until this point, I made jokes with my nerd buddies asking â€œwho would get one of those things if they already have a smartphone?â€
And then I got one.
It works. It works pretty well actually. But I am not here to shill for Amazon today, the reason I am writing story is that someone else in my house really likes the Echoâ€¦
My 4-year-old son.
He LOVES this thing. He comes into our room every morning saying: â€œAlexa, play musicâ€ and our day starts with a song. He constantly asks poor Alexa to tell him a joke. I am starting to hear repeats.
Like AI in science fiction novels, my sonâ€™s use of AI is evolving. Instead of asking for any song, he recently started asking for â€œOld MacDonaldâ€. Once is cute. Twice is fine. But it is every morningâ€¦. Grumpy daddy hates that song, E I E I O!
Outside of annoying nursery rhymes, my only concern is that he is going to figure out how to order products on that thing. I did some digging and figured out a way to lock that down (I hope). But as more services and devices link up with the home automation, I suspect my son will outsmart the controls (like ordering a pizza, which I havenâ€™t set up for that exact reason).
Home automation is a fun novelty (at the moment), so I understand why my son thinks itâ€™s a toy. For as much as he likes talking to â€œAlexa,â€ he likes to run around and turn the lights on and off the old fashioned way too. Like any new technology introduced to a child, you have to monitor usage, set rules and limits, and make sure you are safeguarded from the accidental purchase!
MagformersÂ are magnetic building sets that inspire the creators of the future.
According to the company, “My First Buggy comes in bright opaque colors to excite childrenâ€™s imagination! Young builders can experience Magformers for the first time by constructing different vehicles in red, yellow, pink or blue!”
RoominateÂ teaches girls they can be anything they want to be, and build anything they want to build. A wired building set that actually lights up, and powers moving parts can become so much more than a dollhouse.
“Roominate rPower is the first of its kind, enabling girls to incorporate todayâ€™s technology into playtime like never before,â€ Roominate co-founder, Bettina Chen told BabyCenter. â€œParents and kids will be amazed to see that girls can not only build customizable creations with Roominate, but also program and control their designs from a phone or tablet.”
“Girls can build anything from a light up rock concert stage to a pretend vacuum with a working motor or a three story house with spinning fans,” adds Chen.
Animatronic Darth VaderÂ is based on actual digital data from Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi. HisÂ Lightsaber offersÂ real time interaction with light and stereo battle sound effects. Darth Vader also talks and moves so realistically, you’d be unwise to lower your defenses.
Designed for kids over age 4,Â Interaction NemoÂ actually respondsÂ when kids talk to him, and performs aÂ pre-programmed action sequence with voice and sound. Nemo’s smart sensors even detect obstacles in front of him and he’ll back away.
Fisher-Price’s Smart Toy BearÂ for kids ages 3 – 5 is like a stuffed animal, but with so much more.Â Marissa DiBartolo, senior editor, The Toy Insider, explains what this bear can do, “[He]Â asks kids questions and remembers how they respond, so he can repeat kidsâ€™ names, favorite foods, and favorite colors. He comes with a bunch of smart cards that kids can hold up in front of his face to change his play modes. He can tell stories, take kids on adventures, and even encourage them to get moving.” The toy also tells kids what day it is, and shares a fun fact about each day.
DiBartolo talks about one of the adventures Smart Toy can take kids on: “Once he suggested we go on a cave exploration, so he told me to go grab my flashlight and head into a dark room. When I told him I was ready, he began to tell me an imaginative story and changed his voice to have an echo so I could really feel like we were in a cave!”
Spin Master’s Meccanoid G15Â with voice recognition technology is for kids 10 and older. ExplainsÂ DiBartolo, “[This] is a fully buildable 2 foot tall robot thatâ€™s got jokes, dance moves, and a completely unique personality all its own. Kids can use more than 600 pieces to put Meccanoid together, and then they get to program the robot to mirror their moves, remember phrases, and play back custom motion sequences.”
Have your children had any mishaps with home technology or voice search tools like Appleâ€™s Siri, Amazon Echo, or Google Now? Let us know in the comments section below.