While the smart-toy consumer is sure to mature with age, the market for these connected toys is another story. According to Juniper Research, the connected toy market is expected to triple in hardware and app content revenue, reaching $15.5 billion by 2022. This up from what’s expected to be $4.9 billion in revenue by the end of this year 2017.
The NPD Group echoed this good news with its own research, stating that U.S. toy sales grew 5 percent last year, while the robotic/interactive playmates subcategory rose 14 percent.
Indeed, robotics and smartphone-controlled toys are a hot market in U.S. retail, and one that’s well-positioned for future growth as artificial intelligence becomes more mainstream. One such player in this market is Anki, whose Cozmo robot received widespread attention over the holiday season. Sales of Cozmo and Anki’s Overdrive smartphone-controlled racecars were among the top four bestselling premium toys ($75-plus) for the period of October until Christmas, according to NPD, and the Cozmo was the No. 1 premium toy for 2016.
Anki recently announced it would release a Collector’s Edition in a Liquid Metal finish in September, to be sold exclusively through Toys“R”Us and direct from Anki. TWICE reached out to Anki president and cofounder Hanns Tappeiner for an update on the company’s progress and his thoughts on the overall smart-toy market. What follows is from an emailed Q&A with Tappeiner.
Anki's Collector's Edition Cozmo
TWICE: Who has been the targeted audience for Cozmo users? What about Cozmo purchasers?
While the recommended age for Cozmo is 8 and up, we’ve found that both of our products — Cozmo and Anki Overdrive — appeal to kids and “kids at heart.” In fact, our data suggests that almost half of our Cozmo owners are adults.
TWICE: What have you learned about the tech toy market since you first entered it?
With technology unequivocally having an impact on the pace of innovation in the technology toy market, it’s no longer viable to launch anything unless you’re thinking about the product’s long-term lifespan. With both Anki Overdrive and Cozmo, we’ve been able to introduce new gameplay modes and functionalities via consistent free software updates, allowing for a continuous relationship with our players.
TWICE: Are CE retailers excited about this category?
Yes. Today’s savvy parents are very interested in innovative products that offer more than repetitive play, and retailers have been quick to notice. According to The NPD Group, Cozmo was the second best-selling premium toy this past holiday season in the U.S., and we quickly sold out of Cozmo robots two weeks before Christmas.
TWICE: What are the biggest misconceptions about this category?
Specifically looking at Cozmo, we really had to reset people’s expectations around the type of experience and interactivity that they can expect from a consumer robotics product. Cozmo’s not only an incredibly complex robot packed full of cutting-edge technology, but he also allows people to form emotional resonance that’s never been possible between human and robot. This goes without saying, but consumer robotics and toy industries are currently overflowing with products that overpromise and under-deliver, and we had to really defy categorization alongside less capable products to break through the noise.
TWICE: What’s coming down the pipeline for Anki?
We have a robust content calendar planned for Cozmo and are committed to rolling out new features and abilities via free software updates. I’m particularly excited to share that in the near future, we’ll roll out a significant app update that’ll push the boundaries of Cozmo not only as an entertainment robot but as an educational robot. In September, we’ll be launching Anki Overdrive: Fast Furious Edition on a global scale, and we’re excited to see consumer’s reaction since it’s the first franchise opportunity that we’re exploring with the Anki Overdrive brand.