Feb. 19, 2015 | By Alec

It’s already widely known that 3D printing technology is perfect for creating fun little toys and accessories, and even the occasional robot. But a complete and intelligent cognitive learning toy that makes Furby’s look like some cheap knock-off? Surely that can’t be 3D printed. Well it has, and you can get one for your child by late 2015.

The product in question is the CogniToys, developed by a very innovative start-up called Elemental Path. They have created a wonderful 3D printed dinosaur that is cute, cuddly and fun, but also playful, smart and educational. By pressing the dinosaur’s belly, the child can directly speak with the dinosaur. The child can, as the video illustrates, ask thousands of questions and receive age-appropriate replies, give commands, hear stories, create stories together, tell and listen to jokes and most impressively: the child, over time, shapes the dinosaur’s personality based on its interaction history. All in all, it's a perfect educational toy for children aged four to seven, that will help the child develop basic cognitive skills without putting them in front of the TV or a smartphone all day long.

As the team from Elemental Path explained on their Kickstarter campaign, they recognised a gap in truly smart education toys and sought to create the perfect modern-day option for children that keeps them playing, thinking and interacting with objects, rather than screens. ‘We've built a patent pending technology that allows kids to directly engage in intelligent conversation with their toys,’ they write. ‘The technology allows toys to listen, speak and simultaneously evolve, learn and grow with your child; bringing a new element of personalized, educational play to children.’

Especially impressive is the level of personalization they’ve achieved. In a nutshell, each toy will get to know the child and develop alongside him or her: ‘[It interacts] directly with them to create an experience around each child's personal interests. The toy will explore favorite colors, favorite toys, interests and use these to customize engagement. Even better, the toy has a personality of its own that changes over time.’ They explain.

This allows for a very high level of educational progress. ‘Built into the play experience is a number of custom modules that engage the child in educational play. These include rhyming, spelling, vocabulary, mathematics and much more. As the interaction increases so will the challenge of the educational content continuing to become more challenging as the child learns.’

Finally, each of the dinosaurs is a smart toy that connects to the web, enabling the developers to constantly update and improve the play experience, while parents can observe educational progress through a so-called ‘parent panel’ in the app that accompanies the CogniToy.

It’s hardly surprising that this toy is very attractive to parents, and therefore a tremendous hit on Kickstarter. While we keep an eye open for interesting 3D printing projects on Kickstarter, we rarely see any of them doing so well as the CogniToys dinosaur. While Elemental Path is seeking to raise a sum of $50,000 by 18 March, they have now already received almost double that in pledges. At the time of the writing, the counter is set at more than $92,000 and steadily rising. As part of their stretch goals, the green dinosaur will also be made available in other colors. And while currently only available in English, they are already looking to develop other languages as well.

But as they still have weeks to go, you can make a pledge yourself to get your hands on one of these toys as well! A pledge of $99 or more is enough to qualify for a CogniToy dinosaur (the early bird specials have already been taken). Check out their Kickstarter page here for more.

But of course, many of you will have already become curious as to how this dinosaur works. Basically, the dinosaur is powered by the IBM Watson supercomputer, a famously clever computer designed to answer and ask questions that has access to over four terrabytes of data – including the entirety of Wikipedia. It was originally developed to compete in the Jeopardy game show, in which it won first prize in 2011.

Since then, IBM has been looking to develop commercial applications and launched the IBM Watson Mobile App Developer Challenge a year ago.  Winners of the challenge would receive access to IBM Watson, and was of course won by Elemental Path’s toy concept. Through this powerful supercomputer, the toy is more than capable of answering questions within seconds and asking its own. ‘We have created the first truly "connected" toy that is able to reach out to our cloud platform and give back an age appropriate, personalized response to each utterance,’ the team explains. ‘As more children use the platform the toy will continue to evolve and the better the experience will become. As we proceed, we will identify even better sources of content and continue to create updates that are fun and educational.’

And to develop a child-friendly exterior to house their complicated electronics, Elemental Path turned to 3D printing technology. ‘Rapidly producing 3D print prototypes to let family interact and play with gave us valuable insight into our product design choices.’ Like so many other start-ups, this proved to be the perfect manufacturing technology to quickly and affordably produce prototype iterations.’ However, it is currently not known if the final product is also housed in 3D printed dinosaur bodies, though the photos suggest that this isn’t the case.

All in all, it looks like this 3D printed educational dinosaur is going places – though we will of course have to wait until late 2015 to really see it in the hands of children. Could this be the toy of tomorrow?



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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