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SPECIAL MILLENNIUM ISSUE / SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY | C
NOTES: So Cal at the Turn of the Century : Playtime
2100

It's the year 2100. Do you know what toy your child is playing with?

July 25, 1999|Martin Miller

Among the pile of options, you can still count on a yo-yo, a Hula-Hoop, a ball. "There are few toys as perfect as the rubber ball," says Doug Glen, a strategic planner for El Segundo-based Mattel Inc. "It will be as vital then as it is today because it makes the person who plays with it the most important part of the equation."

Other classics expected to hang around include checkers, chess and Monopoly. Of course, kids will have high-powered walkie-talkies and pocket-sized e-mail computers, too.

Oh, yeah, and there will be a robot that makes C-3PO look like a rust bucket. It'll talk to the child, tell stories, play a nice song before bedtime, serve as a night light and give a wake-up call in the morning, says Stevanne Auerbach, a San Francisco toy consultant.

It will look like anything--anything except what we've seen so far in sci-fi movies. It won't shine like Mechagodzilla or speak in the weird computerized voice of HAL. Instead, it'll resemble a big doll, a pet or even a human. Glen votes for something that looks "a lot like a Labrador retriever. I'd like to be able to hug it," he says.

A child's first robot might be a teddy bear that aids the development of speech and elementary reasoning. At age 3 or 4, he will graduate to a doll or pet equipped to carry on his education.

"The child will have his own personal Aristotle," says Glen. "Robots will be able to teach the child to speak Latin, solve a quadratic equation--and to enjoy it."

Now, that's progress.

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