Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


You all know I like robots.
I had a thought a few years ago, and really this isn't any kind of original thought. Really, at best, it is a variation on an old idea.

My thought was and is that it's only a matter of time before some corporation has big success marketing a toy robot to the masses, and I'm not exactly talking AIBOs for the Japanese geek crowd. Nor do I mean a simple jittery toy like Tickle-Me Elmo. I mean a real deal genuine thinking perceiving reacting robot as a common thing in the American home, as common as a G.I. Joe. Think about it.

Something so novel as an anthropomorphic robot would probably be too
A) Complex
B) Unreliable
C) Expensive
to really market as a utilitarian thing. It isn't function that will make this successful, not at first. What a moderately complex, moderately reliable, and moderately priced machine could be is a toy of sorts. And the packaging and marketing are key.

Say you have something that is just a barebones robot. Say something like the Sony QRIO. It was a very advanced research platform, but could easily be turned into a viable product. What would drive sales is if it was something you could add too, something you could get more novelty out of well after the initial purchase. And the way to do that is robot costumes.

Well, call them what you want, suits, costumes, skins, whatever. But here is how it would work. Sell a base unit, and then sell suits to transform your robot into any number of other recognizable personalities. The consumer isn't buying a robot, no, they are buying a walking talking Yoda. Or lawn gnome. Or Gremlin. Alf, Care Bears, Gizmo, Chucky, Ewoks, Jawas, Mini-me, Astro-Boy, Pinochio, 7 Dwarves, Mickie Mouse, Mario Brothers, Garfield, Fraggles, Muppets, the list goes on. I'm giving examples more form my generation, but think if your kid saw a walking talking Dora the Explorer, they'd FREAK OUT!

The concept isn't new, but the scale is.

You could market these to not just kids, but with the suits in place, pretty much any demographic. It's just a matter of finding the right little suit to entertain. They would obviously also come with some kind of software download or disc that would similarly alter the personality, so that your walking, talking Elmo doesn't walk and talk the same as Winnie the Pooh.

It has the same revenue structure as a gaming console, sell the console, and the consumer has to keep buying the latest and greatest games to get what they want out of the base unit. It could keep the lonely company. It could feed the pets. It could be the pet. It could be an educational platform. It's been shown that young kids respond well to this kind of thing ( but old people don't).

I've already stated that it's just a matter of time (I think). The closest example that I can see today of this kind of thing is from Hansen Robotics. If they would just have to modify their Zeno robot. I'm tellin' you, this is where things are headed. You'll buy your kids one of these in not-too-many years.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

robots, cameras, lab rats, and oh I really liked the famous picture. I'm just here checking in on you, glad to see you're still Austin. Dallas is already praying for you guys to drive here safely for Thanksgiving, can't wait to see you!