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Look Ma, no wires! Zowie launches next wave of smart toys

The smart toy evolution will move up another notch on the IQ scale this September with the retail rollout of two new digital playsets from yearling cyberco Zowie Intertainment. Ellie's Enchanted Garden and Redbeard's Pirate Quest use a sophisticated portfolio of...
July 1, 1999

The smart toy evolution will move up another notch on the IQ scale this September with the retail rollout of two new digital playsets from yearling cyberco Zowie Intertainment. Ellie’s Enchanted Garden and Redbeard’s Pirate Quest use a sophisticated portfolio of sensing and recognition technologies called Zowie Power, which lets kids manipulate on-screen characters and environments in real time by moving toy attachments on the playsets. Zowie’s products have the market edge of being neither mouse- or keyboard-dependent. With no time-consuming downloads or complicated installation processes, these games literally let kids plug in and play.

Zowie’s playset line also picks up points for its unlimited multiplayer capability, and parents will appreciate the low estimated street price of between US$50 and US$60 (this includes the playset, attachments and CD-ROM) and the fact that the attachment toys are sturdy enough to survive a lifetime of rough-and-tumble, unplugged play.

Aimed at girls ages four and up, Ellie’s Enchanted Garden stars a nine-year-old girl who uses imagination to transform her backyard into an ever-changing fantasy world where her stuffed animals (Lily the Giraffe and Bingo the Monkey) come to life to play hopscotch and jump rope. The playset contains three worlds, each with five tri-level activity games.

In Redbeard’s Pirate Quest, kids help three unwitting pirate-ship stowaways find buried treasure and fight a skeletal bad guy named the Duke of Bones. Players also receive helpful tips from Captain Redbeard, a crusty, seafaring ghost.

Zowie has signed a licensing agreement to develop a third game based on Muppets From Space, a feature film from the Jim Henson Company that’s slated to make its theater debut at the end of this month. This playset, which should hit shelves in spring 2000 with a US$50 to US$60 price tag, is a model of the Muppets’ world as seen in the movie. Attachments will include a select cast of Muppets, a spaceship, a laboratory and an exploration vehicle.

Zowie is currently scouting for other licenses, and hopes to expand its playset technology for hook-up to Sony’s PlayStation console and the Internet by the end of the year 2000.

Based in San Mateo, California, Zowie’s playsets (as well as the sensor technology that spawned them) are products of research conducted by Interval Research Corporation. This seven-year-old Silicon Valley lab, founded by computer gurus Paul Allen and David Liddle, studies applications that span the converging worlds of technology, consumers and pop culture.

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