Octobo is a smart plush companion that learns, grows, and plays with kids through a tablet, interactive storybooks, and an expanding constellation of educational apps. Octobo works with any 7-8-inch tablets including Apple, Amazon, and Android.
Octobo is unique in that it can actually respond to a child’s learning. Packed with multiple sensors and advanced technology, Octobo reacts to touch, sound, and interactive tokens, giving your child immediate feedback and positive reinforcement to their learning. Unlike a hard robotic toy, Octobo’s huggable plush is cleverly filled with various soft sensors that can detect your child’s movement and enhance story-time. Parents can feel safe giving Octobo to kids because of his soft padding and gentle, hypoallergenic fabrics
Octobo’s storybooks come in various playful storykits, a special bundle that contains an app, a beautifully illustrated storybook, and interactive components for Octobo. When reading Octobo’s storybooks, your child will interact with Octobo to influence the story and foster their own emotional, cognitive, and language development.
Octobo is a product by Thinker-Tinker, a smart toy learning platform with a built-in game controller and programmable content. Yuting Su heads the company, having a passion for creating games and toys that combine physical and digital gameplay. Her works have been selected for the Experimental Gameplay Workshop in Game Developers Conference, alt.ctrl.GDC, IndieCade@E3, IndieCade, IndiePrize, and more. She was also awarded the title of Forbes “30 Under 30.”
Yuting Su recently granted an exclusive interview where she discussed the Octobo project and its implications.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in designing toys and games?
Yuting Su (YS): When I was a graduate student in USC’s Interactive Media and Games program, I joined and led a few kids’ projects. I found my passion in working in the area and designing games for kids. I love seeing their direct reactions and strong emotional feedback to the design, and as a designer see kids can really benefit from it is amazing. My focus in school is making hybrid games – games that combines physical and digital play; I love to say that I’m creating interactive “experiences” but the easier term for people to understand is toys and games.
MM: What most interests you about the value than play can have on cognitive growth?
YS: Games are always a powerful medium, because it makes any chore fun – and thus make you unaware of you are actively learning or being trained of certain tasks. Jean Piaget, children’s psychologist and educator said, “Play is the answer to how anything new comes about“. And new ideas, repetitive exposures and practices are essential of cognitive development. But of course, the PLAY needs to be carefully designed and structured for the purpose and create a healthy interaction with the environment.
MM: How long did it take to design Octobo and why did you choose this adorable octopus character?
YS: It took a year of R&D to make the first working prototype; and another year to refine and make the production ready sample. We are still on the way of making more improvements and iterations of making Octobo ready and better! I wanted a unique creature for the brand and the story we are creating. There are already a lot of cute teddy bears and rabbits around, and I feel the market doesn’t really need another one! Plus, octopus is one of the smartest and most creative animals in the world! On the design side. octopus has the nature shape that meets our purpose of secretly implementing a lot of sensors in the body and carry a mobile device to displays interactive contents.
MM: How many stories did you write for Octobo and how did you find writers to contribute to his world?
YS: We currently have two stories for Octobo. “Octobo’s Underwater Adventure” (for babies and toddlers, teaching emotions shape matching and colors) and “Octobo and the Great Letter Search” (for kids ages three and up teaching letters, vocabularies, and spelling). But there’s going to have more Octobo stories in the future! I found my creative team by branching out from my personal connection form USC’s Cinematic School network. I’m very lucky to have access to a network of phenomenal individuals in the entertainment world – and from there, referral after referral, friends’ friends’ friends…and so on to find the best fit for the team.
MM: What do you most enjoy about the capabilities of the Octobo toy?
YS: It’s not just a toy, it’s really a platform for kids to enjoy endless educational contents. The way we build the platform, is to leverage the tablets families already using at home — and that makes it a lot more accessible for families to download/ update new contents, and easier for the team to develop new contents to push on app stores. Moreover, Octobo’s high re-playable value is second to none in that Octobo is a growing platform that can accompany kids from early learning to school years.
MM: What prompted you to find this project via Kickstarter?
YS: Kickstarter is a great platform to build a community of believers – people that believes in your concept and be the backer of the idea. As a product focus on families and community effort like us, it’s very important to build the community and start early engagement with people.
MM: Overall, what are your biggest goals for the future of Octobo?
YS: Our vision of the future is an open technology platform coupled with global feedback to empower education. We believe that education must be built on top of shared experiences. We would like to one day share our technology platform with developers and content creators to create the best apps. We would like to harness big data across all users to make our educational content as adaptable and personalized as possible.
MM: How do you think play will continue to influence education in the future?
YS: Play is going to be a “tool” for future education. As technology advances I believe there will be many more innovative products join in the space. I can’t wait to see that future!
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
YS: Please follow us on social media and spread the word! Would really appreciate the help, as a bootstrap company we are doing everything ourselves including marketing so that will mean the world to us if we can get the support!
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Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research” and the Octobo team firmly supports this belief. The toy sneaks learning and physical activity into playtime, leading fun activities through catchy songs, colorful adventure storybooks, and playful games specifically designed for engagement and education.
Beyond the two-story kits being offered, the company also provides an expandable platform. They continuously expand their offerings within their app library where consumers can easily download the next adventure with Octobo. Octobo lives in the mystical world of Puzmo where nature and magic intersect, pictures come to life, and imaginations roam free! Octobo and his friends, the Puzzle Seekers, foster a bustling community of creativity, love, learning, and teamwork.
Inventor Yuting Su is heading this project and she and her team worked with child development experts all over the globe to make sure Octobo can withstand rigorous play while helping kids from ages 0-7. Octobo isn’t like other toys destined to be outgrown; Octobo grows with your child. Because of our expanding app library, Octobo can serve as their companion for years to come. By using methodology-grounded in early childhood education research, Octobo brings about genuine interactions that foster social, emotional, and developmental skills. Designed to prepare kids for school and a creative future, Octobo offers activities in all aspects of child development: cognitive, emotional, physical, social, communication, and creative.
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Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist, and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Blasting News, and Entertainment Vine. She is also a stop-motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a BA in English Literature and a MA in Communication. She is also an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
Meagan is a contributing editor to Kidskintha writing on Toys, Games, Entertainment, and other topics that are happy and fun!