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Technology in Toys: The ZiBear Project

ZiBear can be programmed to play fun and educational quiz games.
ZiBear can be programmed to play fun and educational quiz games. Paul Kutschmarski

In today’s world of gadgets and gizmos children are becoming increasingly tech-savvy at earlier ages. It is not uncommon to see children under a year old playing with phones and tablets and so it is not surprising that more toys are relying on technology to engage children’s interest. ZiBear, a teddy bear with speech capabilities, is one example of just how advanced toys are becoming.

ZiBear is a teddy bear that can interact with people via an app.
ZiBear is a teddy bear that can interact with people via an app. Paul Kutschmarski

ZiBear is an interactive yellow bear who can talk to children based on information programmed into a smart phone by caregivers; it can also search the internet for answers if adult’s enable such a feature. It connects to iPhone or Android smartphones via Bluetooth and will say and sing anything a person wants it to, using content that they have created, or that they have downloaded from the ZiBear content store. ZiBear runs on an app and can say anything that a parent types into it—including fun quizzes that could make the bear a useful tool for test-preparation or memory retention.

ZiBear is also capable of reading stories to children based on eBooks that have been downloaded from the parent’s phone. Likewise, the bear can sing songs and provide the melodies to the music by connecting to a music app. In other words, as long as a book or music is already on a phone then ZiBear can act as a Bluetooth speaker and pronounce the content. It is even possible to take a phone call and have the caller speak through the bear!

ZiBear moves its mouth when it speaks and is capable of shaking its body to appear as if it is “dancing” whenever music plays. This is a cute feature that certainly gets the attention of small children—as is shown on a video on the project’s Indiegogo campaign. ZiBear’s physical unit works via an embedded chip which has a microcontroller, Bluetooth 3.0 transmitter and receiver, and sound detection and analysis algorithm which calculates how to move ZiBear for more natural motion. There's also a high quality speaker and a rechargeable lithium ion battery so there is no need for traditional batteries.

According to the creators, ZiBear was invented to bring modern-day magic to a classic toy that would, in turn, fuel kid’s imaginations. According to the toy description available on the website:

"ZiBear connects to your iPhone or Android smartphone via bluetooth. ZiBear will say, do and sing anything you'd like, using content you've created yourself, or that you've downloaded from our store. ZiBear can even connect to the internet and answer questions intelligently if you let it. You're completely in control of everything ZiBear can say and do so you can turn this feature on and off as you like. ZiBear can listen to what you say and talk back. You can make ZiBear say anything you'd like, and even better, you can customize what ZiBear says when you ask it a particular question! Endless fun, but great if you want to practice words with your children or even help them study!"

ZiBear is a glimpse into the future of toys. It is also a cute item that is likely to amuse young children for hours on end. If you are interested in high-tech toys then ZiBear is certainly something to look into! At present ZiBear is raising funds to further the progress of the project. However, it is expected to be able to speak many languages and offer a SDK (software development kit) for technically savvy people who wish to customize and enhance their ZiBear further. The app will be published in both Google Play and iTunes App Store for download once the campaign is successful.

For more information see the below links:

Below is a link to the campaign:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ZiBear-a-talking-singing-intelligent-...

And here is the link to the actual ZiBear website:
http://www.ZiBear.com/