The kids’ media landscape is evolving SO fast with technology, which is exciting and unnerving in equal parts! AR, AI and Voice are becoming the norm in our daily lives. For this year’s Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield, PRELOADED Head of Design, James Allsopp, joined a panel with Jon Howard (BBC), Lucy Gill (Child Expert), Raj Pathmanathan (Kids Industries), hosted by Matthew Thomas (MTM London) to discuss what’s on everyone’s mind – what’s next in kids’ media and technology?

The panel produced some great discussion and debate with the audience around the impact of these technologies.  To summarise, James has come up with his three top insights:

Insight 1: Voice assistants are creating opportunities for more family-time play

The incredible power of a screen is that it pulls you in and blocks out the surrounding world. If you’re a parent like me, you’ll know how hard it is to keep kids away from the screen. More and more of us now share our homes with voice assistants such as Alexa, Google, Siri. What got the panellists really excited though was the potential power voice assistants have to bring people together, to create those special family moments. Voice technology doesn’t need a screen or physical input; it works through conversation, which means anyone can join in.

Also let’s not forget that there is a tremendous opportunity for content owners to expand their reach to new audiences. Kids with visual, cognitive and motor impairments will now be able to engage with content by just using their voice. Here are some examples that we love:

  • Family fun with Google Home – Google Home’s new family link, which provides experiences for kids. Engaging them in physical play facilitated by the device.
  • When in Rome –  Sensible Object’s first voice-driven board game, part of their Voice Original series.

Insight 2: Digital isn’t replacing physical play, but augmenting it, giving kids richer experiences

LEGO stunned the audience at this year’s (Apple) Worldwide Developer Conference with their ARKit2 tech demo. Not only was it an impressive tech demo for ARKit2, it also provided an insight into how physical play can and is evolving with digital technology. Kids’ imaginations have always powered physical play, but now with AR technology and some best practices borrowed from the video game industry, toy companies such as LEGO, Mattel and Anki are providing tools to spark kids’ imagination and to facilitate their play and inspire richer, more engaging experiences. Here are a couple of examples to show what I mean:

  • LEGO ARKIT2 Demo – Using a lite game layer referred to as “play triggers” which are challenge-based activities to spark more creative play.
  • Hotwheels Augmoto – Video-game like experience, where the digital experience has a direct relationship with the physical track.

Insight 3: The power content creators have when combining these technologies is BEYOND awesome

What got everyone laughing was the exceedingly cheeky Garden friends demo, part of Google Experiements, where you build a garden through a conversation with a character. We might all have been laughing but everyone knew that this was something special, a taste of what’s to come for the future.

Combining technologies – AR, AI, Voice – will provide the opportunity to create a low threshold, rich and emotionally engaging experience. AR will be used to augment the world with information and content; Voice will be your input for interaction and the artificial intelligence sitting in the background will be learning about you and serving you up a more personalised experience from the way you engage with it. Undoubtedly, this will raise many questions and create significant challenges, especially for content creators. It’s a bit of a wide-eyed moment when you realise the experience could serve up a possible outcome the designer’s not even considered. More care will need to be taken when using this AI especially for kids’ media. Designers like control; it’s how we create quality experiences, but perhaps to create more personal and evocative experiences we are going to have to give some it over to the machine.

Finally, a special mention: if you haven’t already seen this, check it out. It’s a perfect example of how combining these technologies can actually change people’s lives:

  • Aflac DuckA heartwarming example of how the latest in social robotics and Artificial Intelligence mixed with play can make an impact in people’s lives, right now.

What emerged loud and clear  from CMC 2018 was that while the changes in our technology landscape are making life very exciting, opportunities need to be approached and used responsibly. As content makers and technology providers for kids’ media, conversations around privacy and data protection are going to be extremely important in the years ahead.

But one thing is for sure – there’s a whole lot to be excited about! If you want to talk more about how to approach using these technologies to enhance your existing IP or product, please email us at hi@preloaded.com

James

James is PRELOADED’s Head of Design. He is passionate about building inclusive experiences that bring people together, and which educate and entertain.