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Friday, June 15, 2012
Smartphone toys come to the fore
The International Tokyo Toy Show kicked off Thursday with an unmistakable message that toy makers don't want to miss out on the smartphone boom.
With the number of people using smartphones growing rapidly, the companies plan to release more toys that involve the high-tech gadgets.
Some products showcased by the 144 firms taking part in the four-day show at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward are trial balloons to gauge consumer reaction.
"When thinking about how we can provide more fun toys, incorporating smartphones is one choice," said Kasumi Nakanishi, public relations manager at Bandai Co.
Bandai is displaying several smartphone-assisted toys, including a board game with a haunted house theme.
When a player stops at a certain spot, it tells the person to touch a smartphone running a special application for the game. The phone displays a grim "fusuma" paper sliding door, which the player opens by sliding a finger.
Then a ghostlike old lady appears and orders the person to go back two places.
Users can play the game without a smartphone, but the device adds more visual effects, Nakanishi said.
The Smart Pet also works with a smartphone. It is a robot dog with an iPhone taking the place of its face. Users download an application and choose a face pattern whose expression synchronizes with the dog's mood and actions.
The Tomy group is also showing a robot pet that works with smartphones.
Unlike Bandai's Smart Pet, the robot dog called i-sodog does not require an iPhone on any part of its body. Instead, the iPhone works as a remote control to move and take care of the dog.
The robot also detects motions of the phone and can move in accordance with them. For instance, if the user tilts the iPhone, the dog will tilt its body in the same direction. In addition, it has a voice recognition function enabling the owner to speak to the robot through the phone, such as telling it to "offer your paw."
"We'd like to create more toys that work with smartphones," said an employee working in the planning department at T-Arts Co., a Tomy group firm.
She was demonstrating a pen light that can be used to directly draw other images onto an iPhone or iPad camera image in the dark. Drawings, which look like neon tube art, can be stored as image files.
She added that smartphones can broaden the possibility of creating new toys.
But the T-Arts employee and Bandai's Nakanishi both said smartphone-related toys have just started taking off, so makers will watch carefully for how customers react.
Wiz Co., which has been providing iPhone-related toys since 2010, is showing of a number of items as well, including a helicopter that can be controlled with an iPhone and a gun that works by attaching an iPhone to it.
Tokyo Skytree-related toys, such as miniature models, also appear popular, while character-themed goods are prominent as usual.