Your kids are already tired of their Christmas toys?what will you get them 10 years from now? In the future, your daughter won’t just change Barbie’s clothes, they’ll discuss what to wear together. A Disney dinosaur will tell your kid what life was like 300 million years ago. A character from “Toy Story” will watch the DVD with your kids and tell them how a particular scene was shot. Your children will no longer have any reason to use their imaginations at all.
Within two years, tiny cameras will be embedded in dolls’ eyes so children can see the world from the doll’s point of view. They?ll be able to create or download different personalities and environments for their dolls from the internet. Toys (and therefore your kids) will be tracked by GPS satellites.
“Sam” is being developed by MIT Media Laboratory’s Toys of Tomorrow (TOT). He?s an animated child who only exists digitally, but can interact with real kids. If a child hands him a toy, his sensors recognize it and signal a computer, which generates a digital version of the object so that Sam can ”take” it and play with it in his own world. Sam is a chillingly futuristic playmate for lonely kids?or he could be an excuse for shy or troubled kids not to try to interact with other children. If you?re being bullied at school, you can stay home and play with Sam.
These toys can also be made to subtly push specific products. ”If Barbie links directly to the Mattel HQ, a little girl might be influenced into bugging her parents into buying new products. That’s much more insidious than television,” says futurist Ian Pearson. ”Once you begin to open the play of children to manufacturers or their alliances, then the child’s [virtual] confidant stops being an independent friend and starts becoming McDonald’s, or whoever’s, sales representative.” Information about kids? play habits could be gathered by the toys while they play with them, then fed back to advertisers.
It’s bad enough that kids, under the influence of television, now demand brand-name toys at younger and younger ages. In the future, the toys themselves will be able to influence our kids? minds and create obedient new consumers.
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