19 July 2006

Business Week special report on tech toys

Be the first to share
putting people first
by experientia

Miuchiz
Working for Clams in Whyville
In a world where kids are spending a significant portion of their lives online, Whyville has pioneered mixing entertainment and education. The virtual world, founded in 1999 by CalTech biology professor James Bower, uses a wide variety of games to teach kids how to manage their money, hone their math and science skills, and even learn how to eat better. It’s a kid’s version of the popular Second Life cyberworld. A growing group of sponsors, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Getty, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Toyota, have created areas within the world where kids can play games to learn about ions or the undersea world, and even customize and arrange financing for a new Toyota Scion. This combination of fun and learning is exerting an undeniable appeal: Over the past year, the service has grown 41% and now has 1.7 million members.

Tech Toys for Today’s Kids
Today toy companies face fierce competition for kids’ attention, not just from traditional industry players, but from video game, consumer electronics, and computer companies. Forget about Santa’s elves banging out wooden soldiers at the North Pole. These days toymakers have to act more like Apple’s Steve Jobs—constantly reinventing their products in sleek labS in Silicon Valley.

Re-inventing HotWheels
After a six-year interlude at toymakers Jakks Pacific and then Best Pals, designer Gary Swisher returned to Mattel in 2005 as vice-president of wheels design. There he oversees the HotWheels, Matchbox, and Tyco lines—the top three in the vehicles category. But a lot has changed since Swisher’s G-Force days. For one thing, today’s kids have grown up with technology. As Swisher says, “it’s just a given for them.” The toy industry has responded by giving classic brands a high-tech twist and introducing all new products that blur the line between toy and tech gadget. Recently, Swisher spoke with BusinessWeek.com’s Jessie Scanlon about the challenge of stewarding an old-school brand like HotWheels in our tech-driven age, the emerging technologies that will affect the toy industry, and Mattel’s Web strategy.

The Tussle Over High-Tech Toys (slideshow)
For a glimpse of [the high tech toys[ you’ll see on toy retail shelves well in advance of the crucial year-end shopping season.

Toys for Tot Testers
At Fisher-Price Play Lab, in the heart of the company’s headquarters, on the outskirts of Buffalo, N.Y., local children get first crack at the toys Fisher-Price will eventually sell throughout the world. And while it may be fun and games for the kids, the testing that goes on here plays a serious, critical role in the development of the products that helped Fisher-Price, acquired by Mattel in 1993, rake in $2.02 billion in sales last year.

More Than Child’s Play
Go behind the scenes at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, where students design the physical and interactive aspects of toys.

Super Design Powers, Activate!
A childhood dream of becoming a superhero fuels the [Mattel sponsored] development at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program of an interactive toy that encourages girls’ imaginations.

Be the first to share
Related Article
24 February 2015
5 imperatives of user experience design in mobile health technology
David Lee Scher, MD - Owner & Director, DLS Healthcare Consulting discusses what he thinks are five important issues in achieving the ideal mobile technology user experience, specifically for those technologies hoping to enter the …
Related Article
24 February 2015
“I’m divorcing my Nest thermostat”
Kara Pernice, the Managing Director at the Nielsen Norman Group, was a proud early adopter of the unique, cool, and pretty Nest device: "It helped me save energy, and communicated to me. But things went …
Related Article
20 February 2015
[White paper] Digital assurance: Reaching a seamless customer experience
Digital Assurance: Reaching a Seamless Customer Experience by Shawndra Hill (Wharton professor of operations and information management) and Kumudha Sridharan (vice president and global head of testing services at Wipro Technologies) White paper produced by Knowledge@Wharton and …
Related Article
31 January 2015
The last-mile problem: How data science and behavioral science can work together
Analytics is typically discussed in terms of computer technology, machine learning algorithms, and big data. Behavioral nudges, on the other hand, concern human psychology. What do they have in common? Quite a bit, says James …
Related Article
31 January 2015
The startup “that helps companies fix their user experience problems”
Davey Alba explains in Wired how UserTesting runs an online panel of over 1 million testers—volunteers mostly—who can test products and other company materials on demand. : "The company has developed a way for businesses to …
Related Article
23 January 2015
Designing a user experience for wearable devices
Gradinar Razvan discusses some of the questions that UX designers will need to consider when designing for wearables. In particular, he presents the key things that designers should keep in mind when they are designing …
Related Article
21 December 2014
Why Americans care more about experiences than possessions
Leslie Bradshaw, managing parter of Made by Many, describes Americans' shifting value systems. "Young people have redefined success, and their new definition values experience over possession. The word “experience” may sound like a code word for …
Related Article
4 December 2014
There is no such thing as UX Design
Peter Merholz argues that the entire “field” of user experience emerged for one reason — to accommodate, and overcome, poor (or non-existent) product management practices. He now wants to retire the term: "'User experience design' served a …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

27 November 2014
Why the world needs anthropologists – an update

Why the world needs anthropologists – Coming out of the ivory tower Location: Padua, Italy, Centro Culturale Altinate/San Gaetano Date and time: Friday, 5 December 2014, 13:00 – 18:00 Padua, Italy, 5 December 2014 – The second edition of the international symposium of applied anthropologists attempts to erase the boundary between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ anthropology, […]

30 October 2014
The BancoSmart ATM by Experientia for UniCredit selected for ADI Design Index

Last year Experientia designed the interface of an ATM of UniCredit, a major Italian bank. The interface is now rolled out across the bank’s ATMs in Italy, to great satisfaction of the bank and the customers alike, since interaction speed is much faster and error rates went down dramatically. Last year UniCredit and Experientia also […]

29 October 2014
Experientia at EPIC: UX transforming a financial institution

In September 2014 Experientia gave a presentation on working as UX professionals with financial institutions at the EPIC conference in New York. The paper is now available on the EPIC site in HTML and PDF versions (free registration req’d). Abstract Application of a user-centered approach rooted in ethnographic methodologies facilitates a major European bank’s transition […]

See all articles