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talking toy

Growing up many of us no doubt wished our favourite toys could communicate with us. The unfortunate reality was they were lifeless bits of plastic with no social skills to speak of. Dramatically, this is all about to change courtesy of a burst of innovation from Toymail. Their creation, the Mailmen, utilise social media and the latest mobile phone technology to allow the toys to talk!

Toymail co-founders Audry Hill and Guari Nanda have created a product which can vary its discourse with children – it isn’t merely a pull-string doll with three catchphrases. As Nanda explains, “Our team created the Mailmen, the toys that deliver your Toymail. Then we developed an app where you connect to kids you know, record them a message, and send it right from your phone to their toys.” The Mailmen effectively act as an escapist version of voicemail and e-mail through the app, and if you don’t own the toy it’s irrelevant. As long as you download the app you can communicate with the Mailmen from anywhere in the world.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign saw the company easily achieve their $60,000 target, Toymail will be releasing the toys this month. Here’s what you can expect as social media enters a new phase.

How The Mailmen Work

milksop toyFirst off, you can choose from five Mailmen: Snort, Milksop (pictured), Fairfax, Rochester, Buck, and Bushwick (the latter available in 2014). Getting them running appears to be simple enough. If you choose Snort, for instance, you’ll have to insert some batteries (which apparently will last a full year), then Snort will connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network using the free app. This will take a few minutes to install everything, but once complete parents, relatives, and friends can use the app (which they can download for free) to record messages and send to Snort. Once the message has been received Snort will “snort, whine, howl, and growl” (the equivalent of a ringtone), and the child presses the play button to hear the message. They can then press the reply button to immediately respond.

There are additional features to make everything more endearing. Through Snort you could send your message with a digitally altered, dafter version of your voice. You can record in your normal tones, of course, should you wish to demand someone clean their room, but the added silliness is appealing to all ages. This is where the social media element is intriguing; whilst the Mailmen are aimed primarily at children, the gleeful kid which remains in us all plays a central role in the experience. The child can sit back and enjoy the messages, but everything will be instigated by the adults. Some grownups may even go as far as to place a Mailmen in their house for themselves – no doubt many of us would enjoy having Snort sitting in our living room yelling stuff in a silly voice. To see all this in action you can visit the This Is Our App explanatory video.

Toymail have even come up with a “Daily Toymailer” in case you’re too busy to send a message. With this set up a daily message will be directly delivered to a Mailmen toy to keep the owner entertained. The message will even address the child by name; jokes, facts, stories, and songs are to be expected! Finally, whilst the app is free to download, there are minor fees. App owners receive 10 free “stamps” a month, meaning they can send messages to whomever they wish. The rest of the time each message costs one stamp – a book of 50 can be purchased for $0.99.

Social Media Evolving

This could all be the start of a new phase in social media’s short history. The latest video game consoles (the PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U) all showcase social media capabilities, so it appears only natural the more traditional toy industry should follow suit. Other industries may even take note, which could shape the average household in the near future. What other appliances could strut about and talk to you as loved ones send messages? The toaster would be a good start.

For now there are the small Mailmen and their cutesy appeal. The toy, and its app, have tapped back in to the sense of fun social media formats initially created. What Toymail have, consequently, displayed is a sense of joy and creativity through social media; it’s not about Selfies, Retweets, or amassing a vast collection of “Likes”. They offer a toy which people will look back on in a decade and remember with great fondness – real character building, happy memory making stuff. This is social media in an evolutionary phase, moving beyond its initial roots and becoming more tangible.

If you’re interested (for yourself or your children), pre-production is well under way and Mailmen will be shipping to IOS (Apple product owners) this month. The retail price is expected to be around the $55 mark – you can pre-order at www.toymailco.com.

About Alex Morris

Alex Morris has worked as a copywriter and social media manager for a leading small business in the UK. He now spends his time reporting about the business and technology industries. He has been a business writer, and blogger, since completing an MA in Journalism in 2007.

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