“Bringing computing power to everyday objects” was the futuristic vision of Lahiru Priyadarshana, a Sri Lankan born software engineer with special interests in Human Computer Interaction, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Sensing and Machine Vision . And today, he and his team at Kreyonic (where he is a co-founder), are on track with achieving this goal with an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign for their newest project – “Qboo: Smart Plush Toys for Children”. The ambitious aim of the Kreyonic team is to raise $25000 to support the manufacturing cost and development of the product.
Gone are the days when kids used to run around in the gardens and play with physical objects. Change in modern lifestyle has shown it’s effect on the learning patterns of children whose brains undergo vast development during early childhood days. Sadly, children these days spend their lazy afternoons in front of TVs or playing computer games. “The time children spend in front of a display screen of some sort is increasing rapidly as well. However, apart from keeping them busy this passive and non-active screen time alone will not aid in their brain development.” notes the Kreyonic team.
“It is imperative for kids, particularly in their early ages to play with toys. Active play involving pretend-play and imaginative-play is a major part of healthy brain development as often stressed by child psychology experts.”
And thus, the Kreyonic team came up with Qboo! We at Digit were fascinated by this new product, and had a an exclusive interview with the team behind the idea.
What is Qboo?
Qboo is the first in the line of Kreyonic products. According to the Kreyonic team, “Qboo is a set of farm animals from the magical farm land far far away”. The Qboo characters are made of fabric (plush toys) and they come to life through an interactive educational tablet application which is bundled in the package. The team is planning to release the application for tablets running both iOS and Android. “With the use of actual toys, our products can make screen time more meaningful and fun for children.” Lahiru says while talking about this new project.
How does Qboo work?
Once you get hold of the Qboo toys and install the bundled application on your tablet device, all you need to do is to place the toys on the screen. And the magic will unfold in front of the little kids. The tablet app automatically detects the type / character of the toy and presents a variety of activities on the screen!
“Qboo toys do not have any electronics inside. Current toys are passive and use multi-touch technology on latest capacitive sensing tablet screens. Each toy has a uniquely identifiable pattern embroidered with a special thread; when kids place toys on the tablet screen, each toy registers a unique multi touch pattern that our application can use to recognize the type of toy being used” explains Lahiru.
Now, we have got a question. The toys need to be placed on the tablet screen for the stories to unfold. Will the toys damage or scratch the tablet device / screen?
“No. This is one of the main things many parents are concerned. We take this extremely seriously and that is why we wanted to create a toy, which is both kid friendly and tablet friendly. The toys are completely made of fabric (plush toys) and no matter how hard your child use it on your tablet device… Qboo toys will not damage or scratch the tablet screen.” assures Lahiru.
The most creative part of Qboo is that the application encourages non-structured, open ended game play, unlike any other game stories that end in a short time. Thus children can choose which characters they want in their stories. Qboo also allows kids to control the flow of the stories based on their own imagination. So, every time the kid starts to play, a different story unfolds in front of his eyes. This means the kids will never get bored with Qboo.
Another interesting thing about Qboo toys, is that they can be used as a regular soft toy, when there is no tablet around. “At Kreyonic, our main goal is to encourage physical play for kids without restricting their access to technology. The toys and stories are made carefully so that kids can continue playing with them even there is no tablet around! Qboo toys are not electronic toys so kids can do pretend-play and imaginative play in the real world just as they play with other plush toys.” adds Lahiru.
What age group is Qboo targeted at?
“The current application we are working on is targeted for kids from 3 to 5 years. The stories are developed under guidance and instructions from educators, early child development experts and parents. We are raising more funds so that we can add an educator and a creative story writer permanently to the team very soon!!” notes the Kreyonic team.
How can you become part of the exciting Qboo journey?
Well, you can use this chance to get something unique to the little ones in your family, while helping this team of Sri Lankan youth kick-start their business on a global scale. The Qboo project is currently in crowdfunding stage at Indiegogo. And, anyone around the world can start backing the project by contributing as low as CAD$ 10 (which will earn you exclusive Qboo merchandise). The real deal starts at CAD$20. Yes, as an early bird offer, you can pre-order the Qboo starter pack along with 3 stories for as low as CAD$20 (around Rs.2500. Add CAD$15 for international shipping). This offer is limited to the first 50 backers; so hurry! More other contribution plans can be seen from the official Indiegogo site here. The funding ends on 3rd of January 2014 and then the team will proceed to manufacturing and you’ll receive your product by next April, in time for the Avurudu! (There you go, perfect Avurudu gift idea for the little cousin!)
Meet the team!
“We love technology and we love KIDS!” says the team that includes Lahiru Priyadarshana, Dasun Priyankara and Amani Soysa. And the talented Isuri Hewage (Art Of Isuri) is the illustrator and designer behind the project.
Why did the team choose Canada? “We chose Canada because we knew that our initial target market is in North America…we wanted to be as close as to our target market. So we moved here in last August. We ﬁnd Canada, specially Kitchener-Waterloo to be very exciting and active in the start-up space. It is the community here that makes all the difference! You are surrounded with passionate, inspirational entrepreneurs and you really can feel the energy that keeps you moving forward!” says Lahiru enthusiastically.
Qboo will be in the hands of little children. So the toys need to be safe and from a trusted manufacturer. “We are partnered with a local manufacturer based in Kitchener, Waterloo. They are working with a factory in China, which is where the ﬁnal product will be made. The factories are operated in safer environment under toy safety regulations. All the toys will go under proper testing and will have an internationally approved toy safety certiﬁcation.” assures Lahiru.
Adding further, “Current toys are passive and we have plans to release active toys with more electronics in future. So this is just the beginning” says he.
Even though Lahiru and his team are based in Canada, he is very much interested to see more similar startups emerge from his motherland. “We all at Kreyonic are very happy to see that a lot of great things are happening in the Sri Lankan IT sector…specially in the startup scene.! We are also just starting… still a small startup, and there is a long way to go. So with all the budding entrepreneurs out there, I would like to share one of the best advices we were given during our time here. “All the best things happen outside of your comfort zone; so step out right now!” ” – he says with a smile; the enthusiasm in this young man’s smile cannot be described in words. We at Digit are also proud of this young man, for he is one of the previous employees at GTS!
So, everyone reading this, do spread the word and help this budding startup to achieve their innovative goal by backing them in their Indiegogo campaign here: http://igg.me/at/qboo