Talking tori – the next step in child and family-friendly creative gaming

Finding a happy balance between screen time and other activities is every modern parent’s high-wire act, and it’s one that at times feels impossible not to fall foul of. On the one hand you have educational apps, games that promote tactical and stategic thought, access to the wealth of knowledge and media on the internet, and all of this exposes your kids to technology skills that will be essential in later life. On the other, you run the risk of exposing them to media and thing that aren’t appropriate, or losing them to the screen and its contents while you worry that you’re raising a miniature zombie.

Bandai Namco are hoping to avoid some of these pitfalls by providing a new and positive way to engage children that combines the use of a tablet app, a high-tech control board and some good old-fashioned crafting. tori looks to build on the creative successes of Nintendo Labo, while making it accessible to nearly everyone. We caught up with Jérôme Dureau, Innovation Projects Manager on tori, to talk about the the upcoming release.

TSA: So, how does tori work?

Jérôme: tori leverages Mirror Play, which is the combination of the augmented interaction solution powered by ISKN which allows users to mirror every user’s move into the game with other cutting edge technologies. Mirror Play is aimed at offering an immersive and personalized experience that blends reality and digital seamlessly. Every tori Toy is completely passive as it hosts an ID tag and the power bar, composed of a magnet, while the tori board features multiple sensors to track the exact position and orientation of these tori Toys. Finally, we use the camera of the user’s smartphone or tablet running iOS or Android to import the user’s creativity directly into the compatible digital worlds.

TSA: What do you get in the initial Explorer pack?

Jérôme: You get a tori Board, and three tori Toys to play over the board which are a tori Catapult, tori Wand, and a tori Spacecraft. Alongside that there’s a Power Bar to plug in the tori Toys, a creative book which allows you to customise the worlds of the Jungle Rescue app and also your creations in the Supreme Builder app as well as four DIY Spacecrafts to personalise and play with the Crystal Chase app and a DIY Stand to personalise and assemble to hold your smartphone or tablet.

TSA: What was the primary aim when you started developing tori?

Jérôme: Because our vision is to create the entertainment of tomorrow and redefine its role in society, we wanted to develop a creative and playful experience for families where problem solving, creativity and concentration are at their heart. For that reason, we partnered with ISKN and collaborated with child development experts but also our developing studio and internal teams to craft a meaningful blend between off-screen activities and digital play.

TSA: What influenced the choice to focus on iOS and Android? Do you see potential in expanding to PC or console or is accessibility the primary aim?

Jérôme: We figured iOS and Android were the most relevant platforms to start with given our demographics, while capitalising on embedded technologies that PC or consoles do not possess yet. However, expanding onto new platforms is definitely something we want to consider in order to offer more people the opportunity to free their creativity and power up their play!

TSA: Nintendo’s Labo offers a similarly left-field approach to engaging with children and families, did you learn anything from their launch last year?

Jérôme: I’d like to take the opportunity to congratulate Nintendo with their Labo product. Extending the use of their Switch gaming platform thanks to cardboard customisation and folding is clever and exciting. Noticing their release last year was very interesting as we shared common ideas on children’s development. It also comforted us in the vision we had pulled together for the tori Explorer pack over a year before their own announcement.

Despite our shared aspirational ideas, we believe ourselves very different to their end product. We’ve developed a full piece of patented high-tech consumer electronics featuring experiences with physical toys providing instant fun and interactive creativity for self-development purposes working with tablets and smartphones. Through the Crystal Chase, Jungle Rescue, Supreme Builder and Shades of Light experiences, we provide families a whole new way to play and see their creativity come magically and instantaneously alive.

TSA: Arguably Labo struggled with the actual gaming component compared to the remarkable cardboard builds. Do you see tori as a creative platform, an educational tool or a gaming system?

Jérôme: The seamless blend between physical activities and digital interactions isn’t an easy one, this is why we’ve been working and iterating on our offer for more than three years, relying on a proven patented technology, before revealing it to the world. Mirror Play enables us to personalise the world we explore by importing creations we have made in real life and play within the customised world where our every move is mirrored into the games. This mix of off-screen and digital activities was developed in collaboration with experts in child development so such experiences are fun while also beneficial for them. It is therefore a creative entertainment platform that aims at developing ‘twenty-first century skills’ in a fun way.

TSA: What sort of data can the tori system provide to parents about a child’s engagement and learning?

Jérôme: Once parents give their approval through the tori Dashboard, every app can connect to the internet to secure their children progression on the Cloud. Such progression is anonymously and automatically processed to provide parents a transversal view of how much their children have solicited cognitive skills such as motor coordination, executive functions, problem solving, space and numbers, creativity or social skills.

On top of this dashboard, parents can also interact with their children by setting challenges in the gaming apps to enrich their entertaining experience.

TSA: With a downturn in sales for toys to life products – most recently Starlink – is that a concern for tori?

Jérôme: tori is very different from that entertainment category, partly due to the diversity of experiences tori has to offer, but also the fact that we want to inspire children to unleash their creativity and create their own experience. The true core of our game mechanics are designed to solicit twenty-first century skills,  therefore our vision and goal with our product greatly differ. Finally, we’re planning to release new content that will be compatible with the Explorer Pack in the near future.

TSA: Outside of games are there other practical applications you could see tori being used for, or anything planned?

Jérôme: We have lots of ideas with tori, as the platform and Mirror Play are very flexible and the possibilities are almost endless. So please stay tuned for more info!

The tori Explorer pack is set to release on the 4th of October, and is compatible with iOS and Android devices.

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