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The bear necessities

In an age when technology is finding its way into even the most unplugged of product categories (Playskool's cribside MP3 player comes to mind), it was really only a matter of time before someone came up with a modernization hook for plush toys. Enter the iTeddy. This next-gen bear created by Bolton, England-based Imran Hakim has all the requisite fluffy-soft body parts common to its ilk. But it also has a built-in personal media player and 1.8-inch tummy screen. We've come a long way since Paddington, folks.
October 1, 2007

In an age when technology is finding its way into even the most unplugged of product categories (Playskool’s cribside MP3 player comes to mind), it was really only a matter of time before someone came up with a modernization hook for plush toys. Enter the iTeddy. This next-gen bear created by Bolton, England-based Imran Hakim has all the requisite fluffy-soft body parts common to its ilk. But it also has a built-in personal media player and 1.8-inch tummy screen. We’ve come a long way since Paddington, folks.

Sheffield, England-based BiBC handles the digital programming side of the product’s development, and is looking for television, audio book and photo slideshow content. Since iTeddy rolled out at retail this past July in the UK and Ireland, BiBC acquisitions director Paul Coster says that he’s ‘never been so popular with children’s programmers.’

The company has set up content partnerships with the BBC for a library of audio books including The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and The Magic Roundabout, and VGI Entertainment (Ebb and Flo), Granada (Pocoyo, Numberjacks) and Turner Broadcasting International (Robotboy, Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends) are all contributing TV eps to the effort.

But licensed programming isn’t the only content that can be played on iTeddy. The product also comes equipped with a file converter than can easily translate foreign file extensions into adaptable formats. Hakim reports that many parents are using this application to load up recordings of themselves reading storybooks so children can hear their voices before they toddle off to bed.

Once the core teddy bear is purchased for around US$80, parents must buy content at retail to play on it. One-off TV episodes go for as low as US$1.50, and seven-hour audio books cost around US$27. Coster is currently looking into setting up subscription services whereby parents will be able to access unlimited downloadable content for a straight-up monthly fee.

Future waves of iTeddy will likely evolve to include new technology such as Bluetooth and bigger memory banks. Hakim will be at the Shanghai Toy Expo & Licensing Show in China this month to show the product off to prospective retail buyers in English-speaking territories. He hopes to launch iTeddy into more territories next year.

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