Yesterday, I mentioned the trend towards combining technology with hands-on, physical components. Lenovo is using the term “phygital” to refer to their new tabletop tablet computer (see yesterday’s post for more info on the Horizon), and I ran into a handful of other products that aim to do the same thing with smart phones and tablets.
The one making the biggest – ahem – splash? The iPotty.
This is not a case of a smart-toilet or a toilet with an iPad built in or anything repulsive like that. The iPotty is merely a plastic toilet (like all potty-training toilets, it’s really an elaborate bedpan) with an iPad dock on it. So if your wife isn’t already incensed that you spend 45 minutes checking your Twitter feed while you’re getting it done in there, now you can encourage your toddler to sit on the john so long his legs fall asleep. Exactly what Steve Jobs intended.
We’re about to start potty training at my house, so I’m slightly familiar with the equipment required. In fact, we already own an Elmo-themed toilet that plays music and makes sounds effects and is all-around gross. I’m sorry, but taking a shit isn’t an amusement park ride. (That’s getting an enema!) Besides, the only Sesame Street character that should be anywhere near feces is Oscar the Grouch, everyone knows that. I feel like even the Elmo toilet is too much, but at least it’s geared towards making the kid comfortable and rewarding him for doing his duty. I don’t know that kids need the kinds of distractions an iPad provides when they should probably be concentrating. The idea is that it allows them to progress at their own pace, and can amuse themselves until they’re ready, but I don’t need to be spending my day waiting for my kid to beat Angry Birds just so we can finally leave the house. But at least no one at work will ever want to borrow my tablet after I tell them where it’s been.
The accessorization of children’s bowel movements with iPads is just another extension of the “phygital” movement we’re seeing at CES. CTA Digital, the company that makes the iPotty, also makes inflatable cars (that don’t actually move) with iPod docks on the steering wheel, so when kids play a driving game it gives them the sensation that they’re really moving – even though you can just buy a little car that does move. The person I spoke to at the CTA Digital booth pitched it as augmented reality for children, but it just seems like simple piggy-backing on a superior product to me. If I already have a tablet, there’s no reason I need to buy these products; I can just use the potty I already have and put the iPad on a stool nearby, or make a fake car out of a cardboard box and provide the same illusion by strapping my tablet on and queuing up a driving game for my son.
The more interesting toys don’t just glom onto existing tech, they complement it. Like the Game Changer from Identity Games, essentially the “board” part of a board game (they call them “game skins”) that works in conjunction with tablets and smart phones, offering players an actual non-digital playing space on which to navigate their game pieces, while the iPad (once the app is downloaded) performs other functions, such as asking trivia questions and assigning tasks.
It didn’t debut at CES (it has been on the market for a while), but it’s part of this “phygital” trend that’s finding fun ways to bridge the gap between the low-tech toys I remember playing with as a kid (air hockey or Monopoly, anyone?) and the constantly evolving technology that today’s kids can’t live without.
Just don’t bring the game skins into the bathroom or they might get used for something decidedly less high tech.