It's undeniable that smartphones and tablets have had a huge impact on our daily lives, and one byproduct could be young children spending less time playing with physical, real world toys. A new gaming platform called Yibu is aiming to bring old-fashioned toys back into the mix, blending physical toys with the gaming world of a tablet app.
According to Frog – thecompany behind Yibu – some 73 percent of children aged three to seven use smartphones and tablets. That time spent staring at a screen directly takes away from hours they would otherwise spend playing in the real world, outside or with physical toys. If you prefer your kiddos to get the increased spatial problem solving that can come from toys, perhaps Yibu is a happy compromise.
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The new platform is designed to combine the compelling, even addictive nature of smartphone and tablet games with traditional toys. We've seen similar ideas from other companies, such as Kickstarter project Pocket Racing, but the Yibu platform is a little different, thanks to its diverse range of sensing toys.
The company started developing the platform back in February 2015, experimenting with sensors as a means of telling a story. The name – pronounced "ee-boo" – means "first step" in Mandarin, representing the idea that the product is designed to provide a healthy, stimulating introduction to technology for children.
The prototype of the platform includes five wooden toys, which were made by a local toy craftsman in Shanghai. Each toy has a different focus, including sound, direction, temperature, light and rotation. Making changes to the toys directly affects what's happening to the on screen character, a polar bear that the user is tasked with returning to her family.
For example, if you take the game outside into the sun, the bear will get hot and start to sweat. To combat that, you can either move the light sensor to a shady spot, or blow on the temperature sensor.
The tablet game is also connected to a server, which feeds in information about the real world that can affect what's happening on screen. Things such as air quality can be reflected in game, as well as weather changes – if it starts to rain in the real world, it will start to rain in the polar bear's virtual world. Similarly, when the sun goes down outside, the bear will go to sleep.
The ideas here are pretty compelling, but the product is currently still in the conceptual stages, so there's no word on how much it's likely to cost if it makes it to retail, or even when it might arrive.
The design of the platform is such that the sensing tools could be used with other games, but there are no immediate plans past the current application. Assuming the platform makes it to retail, it will supposedly work with both iPads and Android tablets.
Product page: FrogView gallery - 8 images