October 19, 2004

RFID playground toystore

I was visiting my friends Moses and Lucie and their kids, Felix and Milo, in Berkeley last week. We went to a public playground near their house that had all kinds of toys scattered about (it's tellingly Berkeley that the toys don't walk away and parents regularly bring more for everyone to share). The thought of a store based on that model occurred to me: have a mall store--malls, of course are primary suburban safe play spaces for kids--where parents swipe their credit card to get themselves and their kids in. They get one of those amusement park or hospital-like plastic wristbands. Inside, it's a large open playspace and cafe, with lots of toys for the kids to play with, and new ones constantly being added. Each toy has an RFID tag in it. If a child wants the toy, falls in love with the toy, then the parents and kids just walk out with it--the RFID tags automatically charge the price of the toy to the credit card the parents swiped to get in, based on proximity with their wristband RFID.

I can see that there are a bunch of potential logistical and financial model problems with this (there's a reason that toys are kept in sturdy packages in toy stores, after all, and I bet it's primarily because of the margins). However, in terms of how a retail model can use technology and change to compete experientially in a realm where straight retail is now difficult, it seemed interesting to me.

Posted by mikek at October 19, 2004 10:58 AM | TrackBack

Speaking as a parent of a 3ish-year old, I'd go for an idea like this - as long as the toy was in good enough shape, the price was discounted a bit to reflect that it was not shiny-and-new-in-a-box and it wouldn't annoy me too much. I'd have a better sense of if it might end up abandoned in the closet just a few days later (this might work to some toys' disadvantage).

This sort of playground might also work as an alternative to sending surplus toys to discount stores - you'd still be knocking a bunch off the price, but they'd at least be getting into the hands of actual kids, perhaps improving the sell-off rate.

Off course, what I want to see is what happens when the RFID tags become parts of the toys themselves (http://www.mediaarealive.com/blog/nb.cgi/view/mediablog/2004/09/24/0)

Posted by: mikepop at October 20, 2004 09:32 PM

Perhaps the tags could adjust the price based on time on the floor or (ideally, but with more difficulty) condition of toy.

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