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     INTERACTIVITY and TOYS - Reprinted from Young Consumer, 2008


Interactivity dissected

Dan Acuff


Youth Market Systems Consulting (YMS)

935 Fairview Ave, Suite B, Arcadia, CA 91007




Interactive toys, games and other kid, tween and teen targeting products and programs – especially those that employ tech as part of the mix - are rising to the top of every young person’s wish lists.


In the toy category, for example, Walmart’s top toys in a recent year are an indication of a typical toy category mix and what might be expected in the future. You will notice that 9 of 11 of them utilize electronics:


      · Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Doll : Cute infant

         baby doll that recognizes her names, asks

         for her bottle and plays peekaboo! Ages 3 to 7.


      · Air Hogs Havoc Heli Radio Controlled Helicopter


      · Fisher Price Smart Cycle Learning Game System.

         Kids play games and ride a stationary bike too!

         Ages 3 to 6.


      · Fisher Price Digital Camera, Pink & Blue.


      · Littlest Pet Shop Electronic Diary. Keep written

               secrets locked inside this voice-activated,

               electronic diary. Ages 6 and up.


            · Razor RIPSTIK Castor Board,  

               skateboard/snowboard hybrid. Ages 8 and up.  


            · Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader? Game ages 8

               and up.


            · Spider-Man 3 Action Command. Remote controlled

               Spider-Man. Ages 6 and up.  


            · Barbie Power Wheels Mustang Convertible Ride

               On. Ages 3 and up. 


            · Furreal Friends Kitty Cat. Lovable cat that comes to

               life like a real pet! Ages 4 and up.


            · Hasbro’s Power Tour Electric Guitar. Teaches kids

               how to play guitar! Plug into a MP3 and play along

               to your favorite tunes! Ages 10 and up


      With the exponential proliferation of technology a variety of “tech toys” and other electronic devices have emerged to bite into parents’ and kids, tweens and teens’ budgets. Cell phones, music etc. devices such as the iPod, multi-function communication devices, Portable devices with TV and Internet functions, learning/play items such as Leapfrog and cameras such as Fisher Price’s Kid Tough Digital Camera. Hasbro via its Tiger Electronics division has released an array of tech items specifically designed for tweens. For example, they have created the VUGO portable multi-media system which allows tech-savvy tweens to have access to their favorite TV shows, music and photos all in one hand-held media system. They also have the VCAM NOW, a pocket-sized digital video camera specifically designed for tweens. It also takes still pictures.

ZOOMBOX is a portable and easy to use 3-in-1 entertainment projector that will play DVDs, CDs and connects to most gaming systems. VIDEONOW XP, is an interactive video system that allows tweens to enjoy top rated programming and music videos as well as play interactive games anytime, anywhere! The CHATNOW Two-Way Radio Communicator is a modern day walkie talkie that is a personal communicator, allowing users to be in touch with their friends and family in up to a two-mile range without paying for airtime or signing a calling plan contract.

Others are joining the tech parade targeting Tweens as well. Disney has its Disney Flix digital video camera that comes with Disney Director software. It allows young people to star in their own Disney movies. They are also offering LCD TVs such as the 15-inch High School Musical model, resembling a locker. Additionally, the cartoon-factory is offering Disney iPod compatible speakers for use with an iPod. They feature alarm clocks and AM/FM tuners. One is themed to Hanna Montana..Then of course, there’s the highly interactive and physical Wii game platform from Nintendo.

 This is only the beginning. We will continue to see a proliferation of interactive tech items with each passing year.

                                                    Five Forms of Interactivity 

For anyone interested in producing and marketing interactive items to today’s young people, it would be important and useful to be able to distinguish between the different types of interactivity. At Youth Market Systems Consulting (ymsconsulting.com) we have identified five distinct types of interactivity. 

Type A: PASSIVE INTERACTIVITY: While this may seem like a misnomer – “interactivity that is passive” – it’s not. In this type of interactivity, young people typically just passively observe what they have put into effect or motion. For example, a car that they wind up then watch as it takes off, an electric train set, or a dancing toy bear that dances at the touch of a button. Slot car racing sets are another example. 

Type B: CONTROLLED INTERACTIVITY:  Remote controlled vehicles are a solid example of this type of interactivity. The young person guides the vehicle via a RC control device. Cars, boats, planes and helicopters are good examples of the types of vehicles that are controlled in this way. As robotic toys gain in popularity, we will see more and more robo-tech products that are guided and controlled by their young masters. 

Type C: INTERACTIVE BUILDING: Any products that require the young user to build or create something as he/she goes along could be called “Interactive Building”. Lego and other building sets are a prime example. The young person has to figure out, problem-solve and create as they go along. 

Type D: JOINING INTERACTIVITY:  Often related to the type of activity inherent in the above web worlds is what we call “Joining Interactivity”.  Anytime a young person officially joins a club or other “group”, there is interactivity involved. We recently consulted with a Norwegian company that has a very successful “Pony Club” for girls. When a young Norwegian girl signs up for the “Pony Club” she receives a package in the mail that includes posters, books, toys, etc., all related to ponies. One’s ego becomes involved with this type of activity and a sense of “belonging” is psychologically inherent. 

Type E: EGO-INVOLVED INTERACTIVITY: With the proliferation of the web, we are seeing more and more examples of opportunities for young people to involve their own egos in different activities. Anytime a young person goes to a website and creates their own iconic character or avatar, their egos become involved within that activity. There is a good deal of power involved when a person becomes – in an imaginative, creative way – an actual character within a web world. There are many examples of this including a new arrival: Zwinky.