In light of the COVID-19 shutdown, all of us are facing the same question right now. How to engage children who are bubbling with energy but cannot go out and play? Here’s a solution that ensures good screen time along with essential skills.
Augmented Reality (AR) has taken the entire world by storm. New-age toymakers have taken to AR and developed toys that are interactive, educational, and of course, entertaining. But what does it mean for us as parents?
Here’s a quick guide on AR toys and how they are revolutionising education, one game at a time.
What is Augmented Reality?
The link between the real (or physical) and the digital (or virtual) world, augmented reality is an interactive experience that blends both worlds. In gaming, AR bridges the gap between the physical toy and the smartphone or tablet. For instance, some games need you to use your smartphone to scan a real-world object to move ahead in the story. If the real-world object is a ﬂashcard of a tiger, the smartphone presents interactive image, video or a 3D ﬁgure of the animal on the screen. In some games, the goal might be to ﬁnd hidden objects by scanning your actual surroundings with your smartphone.
Why are AR toys all the rage?
The reasons for the rise of AR toys are multifold. For starters, Gen Alpha kids are techsavvy and have access to smartphones, unlike previous generations. The prospect of bringing an object to life is fascinating and exciting. If the topic at hand is how animals live in their natural habitat, AR can teach it through 3D models. Younger children can listen to the sounds the animal makes and understand its eating habits, all through stories and simple games. Meanwhile, older children can learn about the food chain and complex ecosystems, through interactive and informative games.
AR makes it possible to explore multiple avenues of learning and present various pieces of information in a visual, easy-to-understand manner. Where a regular map tells you about countries and capitals, an AR-powered globe takes learning to a whole new level. It not only teaches geography, but also introduces you to various cultures, cuisines, monuments, and animals—all at the touch of a button.
By marrying tactical play and digital storytelling, AR toys bring together the best of both worlds. Various digital elements like audio, video, images, and 3D content, merge with physical components of the toy, thereby making learning a unique and inclusive process. The AR technology also helps the child interact with the world around them and creates two-way interactivity, where the child feels like they have control over what they’re learning.
Moreover, AR creates a system of instant feedback that motivates the child to learn more and be more accurate. Most AR toys provide a progress report or graph, which is a personalised evaluation of your child’s learning curve and progress. This report can be monitored and tracked from time-to-time. With the arrival of smart AR-toys, the world has become your child’s oyster. They can make playtime productive, learn through stories, and travel the world without actually leaving home. With the increasing number of kids, parents, and educators alike who use AR-toys regularly, one thing’s clear. AR-powered learning toys are the next big thing in education, and by the looks of it, they’re here to stay.
Goyal is the co-founder of PlayShifu which is a tech start-up specialised in building educational AR toys for kids. He heads the product design and game technology. A Stanford GSB graduate, his background includes eBay, P&G and his own start-up in Silicon Valley.