If you're in the mood for an above-average strange and positive learning tool for kids this season, creators Gauri Nanda and Audry Hill have a project you might want to take a peek at: ToyMail. Using handheld toys called "mailmen", this project allows the user to record a message in an iPhone app and subsequently have that message transmitted to their child. The child hears the message, giggles, and has only to press a single button to send a message back.
If the simplest ideas are the most ingenious, Nanda and Hill have hit the mark in just about as brilliant a way possible while still sticking inside the mobile universe we're all firmly planted in today. The duo took to Kickstarter last month to make this project a reality with the support of hundreds of supporters, coming out with a cool $23,000 more than they'd set their initial goal. Now comes manufacturing and distribution.
We've had a bit of experience with one of these happy little creatures, connecting with the iPhone with relative ease over a local area wireless network. All the user needs to do - once the toy and the phone are connected - is tap a button and record. The message is then transmitted to the toy in either the voice of the sender or the modified voice of the mailman.
Even in this early state, it's clear to see the love and attention put into every detail with this project. Our little "Buck" is light, yet heavy enough not to seem breakable. The buttons are easy to press, but not in the least bit flimsy or accidentally tappable.
While we've worked with the toy in this early stage inside our own wi-fi network, we're also looking forward to being able to share the app part of the equation with friends. Once a user has the toy connected to the web, its unique signal can be accessed by anyone you've shared with anywhere on the web.
The app itself is free, but each message will cost you one virtual stamp. You get 10 stamps with the app right out of the box, then you're able to purchase more stamps at a rate of 99-cents per 50 stamps. So it's not free, but it's certainly not set up to break your bank.
At the moment, each toy will ring in at $59, and they've begun manufacturing big hoards of the creatures already. Over at ToyMail headquarters you'll be able to see when these bits and pieces are going live in your area - have a peek!