The internet of things is gaining attention for its role cobbling together our home security systems, letting us play with our lightbulbs and even for helping track our personal fitness goals, but it’s also a fun toy for parents to engage with their kids. Unfortunately, since most connected devices are gaining ground because they borrow the brains and screens of a smartphone for their interface, most children, especially younger ones aren’t really playing with the internet of things widely.
But that could soon change. Tuesday a <a href=”http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/messagepetz/make-your-text-messages-huggable?ref=live”>Wi-Fi </aequipped teddy bear launched on Kickstarter. It will let parents who are away from their child text a message to the bear. The child (or a person at home who can read) will read the parent’s message as it scrolls across a little LED screen in the bear’s chest. From the MessagePetz press release:
Glenn Jones, Co-Founder and CEO, explains: “Being away from your kids can be one of the most difficult things a parent can go though. It gives me peace of mind to know that even when I’m far away, my son can snuggle up to one of the MessagePetz Bears and know I’m thinking of him. MessagePetz is like a Teddy Ruxpin for the smartphone generation”.
For those who like the idea and want to spend $89 to get the bear in March 2014 or $139 to get it in times for the 2013 holidays, here’s the project. But, with a little creativity and other connected devices you could do something similar. For example, the other day I was playing with my Belkin WeMo and realized I could send a text to IFTTT that would trigger whatever is plugged into the WeMo to turn on. So I told my daughter that when I was out of town I could plug in her disco light and whenever I thought of her, I would turn the light on.
She was unimpressed, telling me that then the light would be on all the time. So I scrapped that plan. But it started me thinking about how to use the array of connected devices in our home to send messages to her, even though she has no smartphone. You could use IFTTT to flash your child’s favorite color using Hue lights at a certain time every day, or with a bit more engineering have them trigger a a remote camera such as People Power and get a message or a short video from them as they enter the house. My daughter would love offering me a mug shot. When the MobiPlug boxes come out I could set my daughter’s favorite song to play on the Sonos given certain triggers.
The bottom line, is that a Wi-Fi enabled teddy bear that can read texts and tell you when your child hugs the bear is fun, and might indeed be worth the $89, but the internet of things can offer a lot more if you’re willing to get creative and have a few connected devices lying around. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the monitoring aspect of parenting.