The ball may have dropped on New Year’s Eve, but in the tech world, the real mark of a new year comes with the annual Consumer Electronics Show and the myriad of gadgets that will come to define it. There are currently 3,000 exhibitors and more than 150,000 people in attendance at this year’s CES, but the trends that will likely permeate the kids space this year have become increasingly apparent as the week wages on.
1. The tablets keep coming
With a reported 90 million tablet users in the US, the crowded tablet market shows no signs of waning in 2014. DreamTab, a brand new COPPA-compliant Android kids tablet from DreamWorks Animation and El Segundo, California-based children’s tablet maker Fuhu, made its debut earlier this week with the promise that it will feature regularly updated original content.
The device will hit US retail this spring chock full of exclusive content from DreamWorks animators that kids can customize as well as a creative studio educational program entitled “Be an Artist.” The feature gives kids animation lessons, with acclaimed DreamWorks artists using the same stylus tool employed by the studio for hit films such as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. Additional features include advanced parental controls, a curated app library, offline Bluetooth-enabled workbooks that work in conjunction with the tablet experience and a variety of kids programming from DreamWorks, Nick, Disney, Cartoon Network and other leading kidsnets. The DreamTab also features safe e-mail, text and photo sharing capabilities and leverages near field communication gaming technology a la Disney Infinity and Skylanders to bring physical DreamWorks-branded toys to life.
Meanwhile, One Laptop per Child (OLPC) launched an XO-2 tablet with a price tag of US$149. The seven-inch tablet comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and is also expected to have GPS functionality. The company’s XO-10 tablet, which will set parents back another US$50, also debuted this week.
2. Spy games
Techno Source and KD Interactive have used the show floor to launch the Android-powered Kurio Kids Phone, a fully parent-driven device that’s packed with unprecedented security features. Parents can restrict app access, data usage, website visitations and with whom kids can chat. The phone also provides location notifications in the event that a child leaves a specified area. The smartphone is expected to debut in the coming months and will be joined by a steadily growing market of parent-driven tech designed to appease kids and keep parents’ anxiety at bay.
3. TVs get amped
The TV industry is going to take some interesting curves this year. CES has bid farewell to the days of 3D, as ultra high-definition 4K TVs have officially been deemed mainstream (albeit with steep prices well into the thousands). The tech, however, is only as good as the content that comes with it, and helping that front are a number of new 4K Ultra HD streaming deals in place, such as this week’s news of a collaboration between DreamWorks and Technicolor-owned M-GO and Samsung, which for its part also launched the largest 4K TV on the market with an 110-inch screen. CES also welcomed Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ promises of original 4K content arriving on the streaming service in the near future. The demand for it is growing, with market research firm The NPD Group predicting that 12.7 million 4K TVs will be shipped to China this year – a large jump from the 1.9 million TVs that reached Chinese homes in 2013.
Meanwhile, Samsung and LG have shown off new curved 4K televisions, which are being touted as offering more optimal viewing experiences. The latter’s 105-inch curved TV will likely be kept out of the typical living room for now, with a hefty price tag of US$69,999. Not exactly kid-friendly, but the implications of what curved televisions will mean for future content and other devices most certainly are.
4. Make way for more robots
Robotics made big waves in 2013, and analysts say the momentum is only expected to strengthen in the year ahead. Among the many robots trolling the halls of CES this year is Tyche (pictured) from California-based AIBrain. Tyche, meaning Greek goddess of Fortune, is being regarded as the most intelligent personal robot companion that can recognize humans, converse and solve difficult problems on its own. The robot is specifically designed to be child-friendly and is being marketed as a tool to help kids eight and up develop intellectual capabilities.
5. Connectivity knows no bounds
The notion of toys having digital integration is a mainstay today, so why should common household appliances be any different? Former Microsoft and Google employee Thomas Serval has launched Kolibree, a connected electric toothbrush that tracks how well a user brushes his or her teeth. The toothbrush, set to launch later this year at US$100 to $US200 with an accompanying free mobile app, lets scores be kept on Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth technology and sends full analysis in order to improve oral care. As kids continue to track their physical activity on web and mobile-based platforms, simple tasks like tooth-brushing are only bound to get more digital and gamified components.