Storyball is a smart toy for kids… without a screen

Oh, screen time. It’s only the third week of the summer holidays, and I’m already tired of the battles. But that also means I’m absolutely open to hearing about new children’s tech that doesn’t have a screen, but which does aim to get kids learning, using their creativity and moving about a bit.

Meet Storyball, which is raising money on crowdfunding website Kickstarter. It’s already sailed past its goal of $30,000 – in fact, it’s quadrupled it with a couple of days still to go. The device is aimed at 4–10 year-olds, and its pitch is well-honed indeed.

“Once a child takes a Storyball in their hand, they enter a world of active, imaginative play where they can complete cool challenges, take fun quizzes, and go on adventures featuring their favourite characters. Storyball creates the illusion of being ‘inside a video game’ — but now, instead of tapping or pressing buttons — players must perform the actions themselves; to swim in the game — swim in reality…”

The idea is that children will change the Storyball’s features by covering it in different elastic ‘skins’, some of which will be based on famous characters from TV shows and books – Nickelodon’s Paw Patrol and a couple of HarperCollins children’s books are already involved – or by new characters created by the developers of the Storyball.

There’s also a companion app, which children will be able to use to check in on their characters and progress, as well as seeing how their friends are doing. “Parents can also use the app to monitor their child’s progress,” adds the developer.

There are some more details on the technology inside the device, and how it works with the activities, in the company’s press release:

“Storyball’s intelligent sensory technology can identify over 100 different gestures and movements from a child. It guides play through audio, haptic and light cues to signal what to do next, making Storyball adventures a truly immersive experience. This allows Storyball to sound the alarm if a child gets caught by a “bad guy,” vibrate if they haven’t jumped high enough over an imaginary fence, or flash red and orange when there’s a fire ahead. Using A.I. machine learning, Storyball detects the habits, behaviours, skills, likes and dislikes of the child to improve the game, quiz or story they’re playing.”

Pledges start at $59 (that’s £45 here in the UK) for a single storyball and one character, although $69 will get you a storyball and three characters. Higher tiers include books, more characters (skins) and if you pay $155 for the Family Fun Pack an extra storyball.