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CES 2013: Fisher-Price playing between virtual and real toys

January 07, 2013|Michelle Maltais
  • Toy maker Fisher-Price has new offerings that blend the enticing and play-extending elements of the virtual with the visceral appeal of the real.
Toy maker Fisher-Price has new offerings that blend the enticing and play-extending… (Fisher-Price )

LAS VEGAS -- Fisher-Price is saying "game on" for kids exploring the nexus between virtual and physical play as it furthers its entry into that golden in-between space.

Running from about $20 to $50, its new age-appropriate line of Apptivity products for kids from infant to preschoolers include, essentially, Otterbox-infused cases that are both kid-proof and kid-friendly and related activity apps. Although calling them cases really doesn't quite do them justice.


For the tiny techie, there are six new interactive nursery rhyme apps that can be used in conjunction with the Laugh & Learn Apptivity Storybook Reader -- a sturdy hard-case, book-shaped cover that will turn the pages of the nursery rhyme app when opened. The app features characters familiar to toddlers (and their parents from repetitive play) such as puppy and froggy who perform little activities that relate to the nursery rhyme when tapped.

The $20 cover, available now, works with iPhones 3GS to 4S and iPod Touch devices. One for the iPhone 5 is coming this summer. Compatibility with the iPad mini is also planned.

Toddlers get to extend their play with the Little People line literally onto the iPad, as pigs and cows make tracks and eat items on screen, with the Little People Apptivity Barnyard iPad cover -- or playground, really.

The iPad is well covered from screen to back, and the fence that extends from the toy cover will actually connect with other Little People non-tech toys. And, my favorite part as the parent of a very curious and fast-learning toddler, is that you can cover the tablet's home button. (Hallelujah!)

The version I saw is still being tweaked somewhat for a fall release, but the app interacts with the characters and the elements of the barn. So if you push the water pump on the barnyard toy, water flows on screen, flooding and making mud if you push too much. Blond Little People character Eddy leaves tracks in his tractor. And they are introducing afro-puff-adorned Tessa.

Kids can play with the animals, plant and tend to virtual seeds and harvest their fruit, play matching games and even put the farm animals to bed after giving them a bath, a brushing and a blanket.

The Apptivity Barnyard, $50, comes with a pig, cow, tractor-riding Eddy and newbie Tessa. It'll be available this fall.

For the preschool set, the Create & Learn Case for iPad allows kids to scroll through the alphabet, practice writing upper- and lowercase letters on lined virtual paper and make butterflies and helicopters fly using  cards that transform from flat images picked up by the back camera into vibrant 3-D animated images on the screen.

One of the features that parents will love is that the attached stylus can be moved for either right- or left-handed use. Another feature is the convertible kickstand that can prop it up in either landscape or portrait mode.

The case, while created for use with the app, isn't limited to that function. The cameras and home button are unobscured, so it could conceivably be used with other apps.

The $40 Create & Learn Case, compatible with Pad generations 1 through 4, is coming this fall. The app works with the Mini, iPhone generations 3GS through 4S and iPod touch generations 3, 4 and 5.

Preschoolers also get knighted and can tackle turkey-leg-flinging trolls in the Imaginext Apptivity Fortress, complete with attached cannon and sentry points for real-to-virtual playing.

The app allows kids to control and interact with the on-screen characters and take a dragon for a cruise over the countryside. The castle of a case can be used upright or flattened.

I have to admit that the kid in me compelled me to get down stomach to floor perched on my elbows to see just how to properly shoot the cannon at the persistent but harmless trolls. Kids and their friends or siblings can actually get in the scene by standing or sitting in front of the iPad's back-facing camera.

The fortress comes with a choice of characters including the knight and the troll. (My suggestion is to add a dragon, but maybe that's just my playtime dream.)

It's $40 and is also planned for a fall release.



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Follow me on Twitter @mmaltaisLAT.

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