Everything’s smart at the moment, from phones to watches, and cars to refrigerators. But what about really smart toys? The CogniToy is probably the smartest we’ve seen yet, because not only is it connected to the Internet, but it’s powered by the same cognitive computing and language technology used by the IBM Watson supercomputer. That’s pretty smart.
The CogniToy, who really needs a proper name, is designed to get to know its owner. It asks questions, listens to and remembers answers – from favorite colors to interests – and can tell jokes. It’ll check the Internet for answers to general questions, with age-appropriate responses of course, and will even make up stories with kids. Educationally, the little dinosaur can help with spelling, vocabulary, math, and other topics in a fun, interactive way.
There’s only one button, and it’s on the dino’s tummy, and it’s used to wake him up. The CogniToy connects to a Wi-Fi network, then communicates with the IBM Watson servers to come up with answers, which are communicated in a normal way. Think of it like Siri for kids, but with a voice like Yoda.
We’ve seen something like this before. Way back in 1997, Microsoft released a toy line called ActiMates, the first of which was based on then-popular purple dinosaur Barney. He talked, sung, and interacted with kids, but sat on a special pedestal connected to a PC. He was also exceptionally irritating, a trait that happily doesn’t seem to have been carried over here.
Back to the CogniToy. Parents aren’t left out, and although they shouldn’t be playing with the dinosaur, a web portal lets them monitor progress through the educational programs, and even see the questions being asked. It’s promised the data sent will be anonymous, and won’t be shared without prior consent.
Aimed at four to seven year-olds, the CogniToy is available through Kickstarter right now, where it has already surpassed its $50,000 goal. The dino costs $100 and only comes in green, unless the campaign reaches $100,000, when other colors will be offered. Deliveries should take place in November, just in time for Christmas.