Toronto, Canada-based iToys is aiming to up the ante on animatronic plush with its new Rutherford the Message Bear that’s been designed to transmit messages and stories to preschoolers from their parents, grandparents and caregivers via wireless technology.
Unveiled at Hong Kong Toy Fair, the interactive plush receives and transmits audio messages via an internet-enabled wireless USB key inserted into a computer nearby. Parents can send messages via a complimentary dedicated phone line and answering service. And when a child gets a voice message, the audio file is emailed to the bear that’s likely sitting in their bedrooms. Incoming messages cause Rutherford’s stomach to light up and a press of his paw delivers the voice recording.
‘It really pulls at all the heart strings in a busy world and appeals, especially, to young parents on the go,’ says iToys chairman and CEO George Irwin, adding, ‘the wireless world is here and we want to take advantage of it.’
The company is launching the toy with an SRP of US$39.99 and is currently closing distribution deals to place the bear at mass retailers in North America and international territories this fall. It’s also working to put the bear in hospitals, where Irwin believes it could become a fixture. ‘There is a huge application there,’ he says. ‘Family members could leave a message and the child could pick it up after an operation, for example.’
And if you’re thinking the tech is suited to character licensing, you’re not alone. Irwin’s team is in the process of hammering out licensing deals for hot IPs. ‘We think there is an opportunity to have kids favorite characters read them a story or deliver messages,’ says Irwin. ‘It really lends itself to that.’ GR