The Silicon Valley start-up plans to use near field communication technology to build a new category of toy products that children can play with both online and offline.
Silicon Valley start-up Nukotoys has announced the first details of its plans to build a new kind of toy company that uses NFC technology to produce products that children can play with both in the real world and online.
The goal, co-CEO Rodger Raderman and CTO Dr Mike North have told NFC World, is to develop interconnected toys, trading cards and video games that take existing playground play patterns and use NFC to bring them into the virtual world as well so that children are equally engaged online and offline.
One idea is to produce trading cards containing RFID tags that, when scanned, make the item shown on the trading card appear ‘magically’ as a virtual tool or item in an online environment. A child playing an online game, for instance, may need to cross a river that is too deep to wade. With Nukotoys, they would look through their trading cards to see if any of them included a useful item. If they found one depicting a bridge, for instance, they would scan it into the game using the NFC-enabled USB stick being developed by Nukotoys (or, eventually, their NFC-enabled mobile phone) and the bridge would then appear in their inventory.
If the child did not have the right trading card, they would then also have the option of trading with a friend the next day, swapping a card they owned but didn’t need for a bridge card owned by another child. Or, by working together with a friend online, a trading card depicting a set of nails held by one child and a card depicting a stock of wood that was held by another child could be put together to build a bridge.
Why not simply print a 10 digit number on each toy or card and have the children type that into their computer? “We love the magic of NFC,” says North. And NFC is instant, an important consideration in fast-paced video games, he adds.
Nukotoys is starting by introducing a range of products based around existing well known brands. So far, the company has signed deals with the Animal Planet cable network and with the publisher of the Ology series of books — Dragonology, Wizardology, Pirateology and more — and the first products are due to arrive in late 2011.
Nukotoys is developing its NFC USB stick in-house and plans to make it available for around US$20. Ultimately, the company plans to make use of NFC-enabled mobile phones, too, and also aims to create a platform that other companies will be able to plug into to introduce their own NFC-enabled children’s entertainment products. Specialist games development houses will be brought in to create the virtual worlds that children will play in.
Nukotoys’ two co-CEOs both come from an advertising background while the company’s chief technology officer holds a doctorate in engineering and was a member of the presenting team on Discovery Channel’s Prototype This! programme. Advisers include Bob Christopher, co-founder of Ugobe which makes the Pleo dinosaur robot, and Peter Adkison, former CEO of Wizards of the Coast, owner of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise and responsible for the introduction of Pokémon trading cards to the US.