By Sandra Maas, Md7 Business Development – Dublin, Ireland

Growing up in the eighties, the most advanced toy I had was a brunette, life-sized hard-plastic doll called “Lissy”. “Lissy” wasn’t just the average doll. What made “Lissy” so advanced was that she ran on 9V batteries and had multi-coloured records you could insert into a small hatch on her back which enabled her to walk and talk. Back then, I have to admit, “Lissy” scared the hell out of me. Luckily, the still-evolving Furby came out a few years later and rid me of my fear of “high-tech toys”.

Nowadays, you can hardly imagine any toy that is not at least battery-operated or even “smart” in some way. As per definition, a smart toy has its own intelligence by virtue of on-board electronics such as micro-processors, memory and storage devices, custom-designed software and, in a rapidly growing number of cases, a wireless connection to either the Internet or other smart devices.

While last year’s top ten digital wish list articles mostly aimed at adults and teenagers (e.g. the Sphero BB-8 or smartphone-controlled drones), the industry has now found a new, highly-promising target group: toddlers and preschoolers.

Let’s take Hasbro as an example: With their new “Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio” for ages 3+, Hasbro are trying to participate in a market that is supposed to grow by 400% over the next 5 years. With “Touch Shape to Life”, every dough creature that is formed by little hands will magically come to life on screen when scanned by smartphone or tablet.

Or “Edwin”, an app-connected smart toy that aims at an even younger audience. The bright yellow rubber duck also acts as a remote control for its digital alter ego. By physical movement and, of course, wireless technology, the app-animated Edwin will fly, brush his teeth, dance or do whatever a rubber duck would do. During bath time, “Edwin” even checks the temperature of the water and, when it’s time for bed, he plays lullabies and serves as a soothing nightlight. With “Smarty”, a child-friendly adaptation of the Amazon Echo, the Silicon Valley-based startup Siliconic Home have taken this concept even further.

But regardless of which smart toy will make it under the tree this year, it seems clear that digitalization and wireless technology will reach even the youngest generation. At Md7, we are proud to be part of an industry that will continue shaping the world like no other – not only for Christmas.