Tag Archives: Connected Toys

This STEM kit will inspire the next generation of inventors

Tio is a new way for kids to play, learn and explore their imagination. 

What do you get when you combine plastic blocks, magnetic wheels and a mobile app? A car that can drive and race around your living room, a merry-go-round that can revolve and flash coded messages, a robot that can lift and carry objects, and a butterfly that can flap its wings, among countless other creations that Tio makes possible

With hopes of “inspiring tomorrow’s inventors,” Tio is a DIY kit that people of all ages can use to build smartphone-controlled gizmos and gadgets out of everyday objects, like recycled and craft materials, old LEGO bricks, obsolete toys and even 3D-printed parts.


The set includes a pair of motorized building blocks with built-in LEDs, magnetic mounts, two wheels, two pulleys, two adapters, four adhesive tabs, 30 stickers and a personalized storybook that will introduce children to the “imaginary worlds and guide them through their first creations.” It even includes nine pop-and-fold invention templates — a helicopter, a crawler and a windmill, to name a few — to help the youngsters get their feet wet before exploring more advanced materials.


What’s cool is that you can customize and program your projects wirelessly via Tio’s accompanying iOS/Android app. This app has several modes, each of which enable you to control features like speed, direction, LED colors, rotation and patterns. With a simple tap or swipe of your screen, Makers can configure their project to record and play back movements. Although more experienced users can code their devices, those just starting out will take comfort in knowing that this skill is not required to join in on the fun.


So whether you’re looking to unleash your creativity with 3D prints, build your own LEGO robot or breathe new life into old toys, Tio may be the connected platform for you. Help inspire the next generation of inventors and head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where the team is currently seeking $69,255. The first batch of units is expected to ship in September 2016.

Google patents Internet-connected toys that can control smart home devices

Get ready for the IoT, the Internet of Toys. 

Google just filed a patent for what may pan out to be one of the coolest or creepiest inventions to date. We’ll let you decide. That’s because, with aspirations of breaking into the toy industry, the tech giant has revealed a plan for stuff animals that can control other in-home devices such as TVs, DVRs, music players, thermostats and window curtains.


Fitted with sensors, microphones, speakers, motors and cameras, the teddy bear would hypothetically be able to detect whether someone was looking at it it, then rotate its head, make eye contact and speak to the person addressing them. Once the plush toy receives and recognizes a voice prompt, a user can instruct it to change the channel on a TV, skip a song and pull up the weather forecast, among many other commands.

“To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest,” the patent filing reads. “To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils.”


The patent diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny, but notes that the gadgets could also apply to mythical creatures ranging from dragons to aliens. Keep in mind, though, this patent is not a surefire indication that Google will ever launch such a product. In fact, the document was originally filed back in February 2012 and granted the other day. However, should the company never choose to pursue this endeavor, one can only imagine that others will debut similar items in the very near future. Just this year alone, toy maker Mattel announced that it was developing a connected Barbie that can hold conversations with children, while startup Elemental Path took their Internet-enabled dinosaur to Kickstarter.

With the emergence of smart dolls, it’s only a matter of time before privacy issues will ensue. Coincidentally, Atmel resident security always explains that, although IoT is possible without security, without security it would really just be a toy. And recent exploits by hackers prove just that. Literally. One route Siri, the other route Chucky, it will be interesting to see which direction these toys will go.

Nübi is ushering in the Internet of Toys

As previously explored on Bits & Pieces, the Maker Movement has paved the way for new gizmos and gadgets in an effort to increase awareness around STEM and lower the barrier of entry for coding. UX design from Slice of Lime has now taken the initiative one step further with their latest connected toy prototype, dubbed Nübi, which aims to teach basic programming skills to kids of any gender.


Nübi is described by its creator, Slice of Lime CEO Kevin Menzie, as an Internet-enabled toy that takes the form of a creature who just arrived on our planet and needs to be taught about everything, from colors to music to temperature.

“All of the teaching and programming of Nübi is done through a magic flower, specially-designed Nübicards, and Nübi itself. There are no screens or other electronics involved.”

The toy is embedded with a series of sensors that enable it to wirelessly communicate like an RFID chip with other devices in its environment, such as a motion detector or light sensor. Kids use an accompanying flower-like wand, equipped with an [Atmel based] Arduino-controlled RFID reader, to talk to Nübi.


Using the wand-like device, kids begin with basic color mixing and sounds, and eventually learn to customize Nübi to react to light and dark, hot and cold, motion, as well as other Nübis.

There are four types of Nübicards: Program Nübicards, Sense Nübicards, Action Nübicards, and Game Nübicards. These aid a user in teaching the connected toy what to do. Simply touch the flower to the Nübicard and then touch Nübi’s head.


For instance, if a child wants to teach Nübi about colors, they would tap the wand against the specific color Nübicard, then touch it the Atmel powered flower. An LED located in its stomach would then emit the color selected. Tap the wand on a pair of colors in succession, and Nübi will even glow the color they make when they’re combined. Come on, that’s so much better than simply mixing paint, not to mention, less messy!

There are also more sophisticated cards as well, which include IFTTT recipes. Using these conditional statements, young Makers can begin programming their Nübi to carry out more complex actions, ranging from glowing blue when it’s cold outside or playing a lullaby when the lights turn off.

Interested in a Nübi for your child? You can check out Nübi’s official website here. Or, you can read more about the connected toy in its latest Gizmodo article.