08 Jun 2015 Disney Playmation: a story of sensors and imagination

Last week Disney announced a new toy line called Playmation, which they describe as ‘the next step in the evolution of play’. The direction is interesting, but is it really the next step?


So what does this new smart toy do exactly? While you might think at first glance that Playmation offers just a familiar combination of physical product meets video gaming, similar to Disney Infinity, there is more to be discovered. The Playmation starter kit includes an arm piece, two base stations and two action figures.

TechCrunch’s comparison to a home laser-tag set feels pretty much spot on. Replacing the computer screen with physical play instead sounds intriguing. But somehow this also seems to describe the limitations of these connected toys. How much space for your own imagination and influence on the story you play is there really? In the video we see a lot of (directed) happy faces, but the only interaction we actually see is an action figure shaking and sometimes falling down. A kid’s imagination can make up for a lot, but our guess is that this will be a game we’ll soon find on loads of attics. Come on Disney, bring on a revolution… not an evolution.

Playmation_KeynotePack_whitebkg

What we’d love to see are interactive concepts that dare to leave the plastic puppets and ‘super soaker’ arm pieces out and focus on supporting children’s own imagination. Imagine your surroundings adapting to the adventure while you are inventing it. How cool would it be to enter a room and find yourself in a fantasy forest. The walls filled with moving images and you can hear the howling sounds of the beast you are hunting down in a distance. With each step you take the movement of the images change, you hear something running past you and see leaves shuffling on the wall…

Sensors detect your position in the space, adapting their behaviour to yours. Imagine toys that adapt to the story you play, reacting to your actions and learning from your behaviour. Just imagine…

Once you approach the end of the fantasy forest the room fills with and atmosphere of dangerous anticipation. You take a leap of faith and turn around the final leave in front of you and jump back surprised by what you see next

…a whole new magical world.

So yeah, we do get Disney’s intention and interest in expanding into the field of interactive toys. But please, let’s not stop there.

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