Charlie and the Crowdfunded Chocolate Factory

Back on November 1st a little known children’s product start-up by the name of Yoto launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for its smart-speakers project.
Of course we are all by now familiar with smart-speakers, and they are even shaping storytelling, with interactive audio content being created specifically for devices like Amazon’s Alexa.

But for children’s speakers, as Stuart Dredge noted over at Medium, there are wider ethical issues to consider when it comes to recording children’s voices and allowing children direct interaction with the internet’s potential perils. As Dredge mentions, a planned children’s smart-speaker project called Aristotle was shelved by Mattel after public concerns about safety.

The British start-up Yoto gets around this dilemma by offering a device with no camera or microphone, that lets very young children interact through two toddler-chunky buttons.

Adults have a say in content from a separate app, but for the young children, the only content that gets through is what the supervising adults permit.

This alone was enough to have the Kickstarter campaign reach its target in next to no time.

Then Yoto pulled off a major coup with a deal with the estate of Roald Dahl, which is where The Bookseller picks up the story.

Yoto was developed by four entrepreneurs from the worlds of music, technology, design and marketing to “maximise kids’ development skills without screen-time, by building and integrating specialist technology and content”. It gives children access to a “curated world of music, stories and learning via interactive cards which connect to a safe, secure world of audio content” … The estate recently partnered with another start-up, personalised children’s publisher Wonderbly, on a new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to celebrate Roald Dahl Day on 13th September.

As The Bookseller notes, the crowdfunding campaign runs until 5 December, but has already almost doubled its original target of £20,000. At £36,000 as I write this. The product is set to launch in 2018.

The audio renditions of Dahl’s work are not just replays of existing audio versions, but commissioned specifically for the target age-group.

My guess is Yoto will spawn many imitators and the audio-for-toddlers sector will add even more revenue to publishers’ bottom lines as publishers start to produce more content.

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