Most toys are only exciting for children for a little while, but then they get tired of them. Gauri Nanda hopes to change that with the new WiFi-connected device she and her cofounder Audry Hill created: Toymail. They hope that by plugging their physical voicemail boxes for children into the Internet of Things, they can keep updating the devices in ways that keep them new forever.
Toymail is halfway there with ten days to go. Besides the two cofounders, the company has one employee who works with customers. They have no office yet, but they are looking at places in Fort Greene, Red Hook and possibly Manhattan.
Nanda told us, “Our goal as a company is to start a brand of toys that really evolve and change every day.”
Of course, there is one sort of toy that is already doing that: tablets. It was important to Nanda and her partner in Michigan that their interface with the child did not use a screen, however. Nanda said that she believes that screens isolate children.
With Toymail, children interact through the instructions that the toy itself gives them, about when a new message has been received and when they can record their own messages. With only two buttons on the back, kids can listen to the last message received as often as they want and reply as many times as they want to that message.
Meanwhile, parents and other mobile phone users who know children can communicate with kids through a mobile app. They can select every kid they know with a Toymail toy, and if the child has more than one, they can pick which one it goes to.
There are differences between each model. They have a few toys designed now, and each one has its own name and its own personality. Unless you opt out, your message will be run through the toys specific filter, so it sounds like the toy’s character. If you back their Kickstarter for $50, you will get a Toymail toy at 10 percent off plus free shipping.
Nanda invented another product for grown-ups that has a toy-like quality, which has evolved into a few other products over the years. “Clocky” from Nanda Home is an alarm clock that will roll off the table and try to hide from you after you have hit the snooze button too many times. So that before you hit it again, you have to go find it.
Nanda told us that she doesn’t need a tactical alarm clock any longer, but she did need it when she came up with the idea in grad school at MIT. Nanda Home has since come out with “Tocky,” as well, and will soon debut an alarm clock with a head that pops off and bounces on the floor.
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