The latest ways to enhance game play with your smartphone or tablet
With additional reporting by James Thorne
Realizing that competing with the popularity of smartphones and tablets is a game they've already lost, toy manufacturers are finding ways to incorporate apps and devices into their product experience. New options range from simple tactile cases to QR codes and elaborate augmented reality board games. We're really impressed by the breadth of the examples we discovered at the 2012 Toy Fair in New York City this week, even if more often than not the concept is more impressive than the execution. This is a space in which we expect to see a huge amount of innovation, and look forward to seeing how large companies and startups jockey for position in the growing market.
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case
Designed for babies, this easy-to-hold iPhone case is used in combination with apps that teach basic vocabulary and motor skills.
The simple foam design of this ball opens the gaming experience to loads of new opportunities. By combining motion sensors, app-based games and TV visualization, the toy from Phyiscal Apps is able to dramatically expand the capabilities of your smartphone simply by securely wrapping it up in a foam ball. Experience bowling by watching the game on your TV and roll the ball against the wall to simulate bowling, for example.
Hasbro Zapped Editions
A range of games from Hasbro slated to appear this year are swapping out traditional game boards for iPads. Old favorites like Life and Monopoly are among the ranks, although we were most excited by the company's plans for Battleship. The strategic two-player game has come a long way since pegs and model ships ruled the board. The game leverages an app and is supplemented by placing battleship pieces on your iPad's screen. For the game of Life, significant "moments" trigger relevant videos, from graduations to wedding ceremonies.
iBounce is reminiscent of treadmill televisions, giving kids an interface to play along with as they engage in physical activity. Currently accompanied by an eBook, the story prompts children to jump along with RompyRoo on his adventures. Apps are already in the works.
Age-old card games like Hearts, War and Solitaire aren't left out of the appcessory world. The standard decks are enhanced by QR codes on some of the cards, which can be ignored offline or scanned to instigate new ways of play. For example, one scanned during Hearts may say to draw more cards, or to throw cards out. It's a simple, clever way to engage those who are interested without modifying the game experience for those who aren't.
Touted as "huggable learning", these adorable smartphone holders give children something to grab on to as they learn through educational app play. The stand also serves as a charger.
This quiz game app and is created for family play, and leverages a dish that holds and counts tokens, and shields your screen-based entries from other players. Answer questions displayed on the screen by putting your colored pieces in the corresponding dish. Correct entries are then collected in the basin below without the need to manually tally responses. The company makes several other appcessories, including game show style buzzers for question-based games.
The original Eye Know card game has been enhanced with a free app component. Scrambled images gradually become clear, and players win points depending on how fast they can guess the person, place or thing coming into focus.
Featuring several different games, this triptych board by Identity Games uses the iPad as the central interface surrounded by two panels for real-world movement. Several two-sided inserts are included with the game board. Play is enabled by rotating the die in the holder, each face corresponding to a different game. Character pieces help keep kids involved as the integrated apps track progress, keep score and provide instruction. A version for smartphones is on the way, too.
The world of tablet styluses is given a natural kid-friendly counterpart with this "crayon" styled stylus by Dano. While not a game, it facilitates both drawing and game play. The triangle-shaped stylus teaches correct grip as users draw on the screen of the tablet, engaging with their app of choice.