Children's toy startup Seedling on Tuesday launched Parker the Bear, an Apple store exclusive plush teddy bear that comes to life through iOS augmented reality effects.
Thanks to AR, a tentpole feature of Apple's latest iPhone devices and the iOS 11 operating system, Parker does not require the usual assortment of batteries, cameras and Wi-Fi radios to drive meaningful user interactions, and instead relies on a free AR app for playtime sessions.
Designed to facilitate play pretend, Parker comes with a doctor's kit, backpack and special X-ray bibs that trigger AR responses in the corresponding Seedling app. Children can diagnose common ailments with the included thermometer and stethoscope, then cure Parker with a medicine bottle and spoon.
Adding to the kit's charm, the accessories are made from wood, not plastic or synthetic materials.
An iPad or iPhone can be employed for more in-depth examinations of Parker's bones and internal organs. For example, kids can use 3D Touch to help Parker to take deeper breaths and test lung capacity. The in-app experience also features games and puzzles, as well as photo and video functionality.
Each time a player performs a successful treatment, solves a problem or completes a puzzle, Parker's Happiness Factor rises, eliciting special AR effects.
Designed for children ages three and up, Parker is considered a STEAM toy in that it offers kids a new way to learn about science, technology, education, arts, and math. As a doctor-style play product, the bear also teaches basic biology.
Apple often uses its retail store might to attract innovative startups marketing products that jibe with up and coming device technologies. In 2013, for example, the company partnered with Anki to sell the robotics and AI firm's iOS-connected remote control car set through Apple.com and brick-and-mortar Apple stores.
The introduction of Parker meshes with Apple's thrust into AR, which is just now taking root thanks to ARKit and specialized components introduced with the latest iPhone handsets.