#InternetOfToys – let the toy battles begin

Wouldn’t it be great to play with toys and get paid for it? If this sounds like music to your ears, then this blog post is for you. If you are a business person who thinks toys are just child’s play, then you should read on as well! It’s true that Industrial IoT will generate lots of money in years to come but for now uptake is slow. The most exciting innovations no longer come from large industrial corporations rather from makers, smart startups, crowdfunding, etc. At Ubuntu, we want to see more and are impassioned by the prospect of these exciting things, toys, gadgets or whatever you call them.

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Smart toys today are rather limited in functionality. At most they have an API, a mobile app or a cloud. Even top of the line smart toys like Lego’s Mindstorms, Sphero’s BB8, Wowwee’s Robosapien X, etc. are still limited to what their manufacturers have envisioned. However, in reality, we all have supercomputers in our pockets that through apps can disrupt taxis, hotels, cinemas, etc. Why can’t we put apps on toys and let our imaginations run wild? That’s exactly why we open sourced snappy Ubuntu Core, to app-enable all type of things and through app stores allow anybody to share their brilliance with the world.

In the past few weeks, we had several partners show their #InternetOfToys inventions. Erle Robotics showed how their app-enabled spider could be used as a voting machine on questions like “Should robots be allowed to have sex with humans?” during Mark Shuttleworth’s keynote as ROSCON. A simple twitter app allowed anybody to make the spider move forward for yes and backward for no. Smart people in the room immediately found out that left and right also worked and our spider became super hyperactive. Another app enabled the spider to live stream whatever it saw on Youtube. Here is what it saw at IoT World Europe.

M2MLabs took a Rapsberry Pi, a BrickPi and Lego Mindstorms to create a robot arm to transport objects. They created their own control app and made it move autonomously. With an app-enabled Lego Mindstorms, what would you build?

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Think about other possibilities for the #InternetOfToys. For Instance, adding microphones and speakers to enable toys to communicate or linking social networks so toys become social walkie talkies. Cloud-enabled voice recognition would further enable you to be commander in chief to your own army of toys. Cameras can do object avoidance but also object recognition. Your toy can become the security guard of your castle or look for mice while you are away. NFC allows you to easily configure the toy with your mobile.

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Take it a step further and use the #InternetOfToys as a cheap experimentation platform. A communicating toy might allow a psychiatrist to bond with a young mental patient faster because they trust their toys. NFC allows payment processing and recharging contactless wallets. Perhaps people are willing to use voice recognition as a way to authorize payment as well. Building voice payments into a POS would be expensive but adding an app to this week’s cool toy and running a voice payment experiment is quite cheap.

So if you are a serious business person then you should look at the #InternetOfToys as a platform to quickly and cheaply test new and innovative ideas and concepts. Your successes can afterwards be introduced and have applicability in the world of the Industrial IoT. For the rest of us we can all have fun and tell the world we are doing some serious work…

About the author

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Maarten Ectors is responsible at Canonical for Internet of Things, the next-generation of networking and cloud solutions that are in proximity of the user or at the edges of the network. Previously he was strategy director for cloud, big data and IoT. Maarten reports to Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical.

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