How SoapBox Labs is changing children’s toys with voice tech

25 May 2021

Image: © ulza/Stock.adobe.com

The Irish voice technology company is launching two new features to give children more interactive toy experiences with privacy in mind.

SoapBox Labs, the Dublin company that develops voice technology for children, has developed new voice-tech features to enhance how children interact with their toys.

The company has today (25 May) launched voice activity detection (VAD) and custom wake words, which are used to activate a dormant device using a custom word or phrase.

While this is common among many smart devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, SoapBox Labs said its feature is designed specifically for children’s unique speech patterns, behaviours, environments and privacy needs.

Dr Martyn Farrows, CEO of SoapBox Labs, told Siliconrepublic.com that VAD means the microphone in a toy will only start listening when a child begins to speak to avoid the accidental processing of voice data, while its custom wake word technology will allow toys to come to life without the need for buttons.

“We’re transforming how children of all ages and accents interact with technology,” he said.

Farrows took over as CEO of the company at the beginning of May, having worked as chief operations officer since 2017.

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He added that the new features from SoapBox Labs will “turn on the magic” of interactive play for toy companies.

“Voice-enabled toys expand toy companies’ ability to offer deeper and more engaging play experiences to kids. Kids can use their voice to control their toys, apps and games, and the experience is never interrupted juggling with menus, buttons and controllers – offering kids a more naturally immersive experience,” he said.

‘You’ll be seeing a lot more SoapBox Play features and solutions coming to the market over the coming months’
– MARTYN FARROWS

“Toy companies want kids to engage deeper and for longer with their products. By controlling toys and games with their voices, kids are more likely to naturally immerse themselves, stay focused, accelerate the play and expand their imaginations.”

Founded in 2013 by Dr Patricia Scanlon, SoapBox Labs has already established itself in the edtech market with key partnerships such as with the Florida Center for Reading Research and New York edtech firm Amplify.

Last year, the Dublin-based company raised €5.8m in Series A funding and earlier this year announced its expansion into the US.

The company’s newest features develop the SoapBox Play side of its business, which focuses on voice-enabled third-party games, toys, and entertainment applications for the home and consumer markets.

“You’ll be seeing a lot more SoapBox Play features and solutions coming to the market over the coming months and they’ll be specifically designed for kids, low-code, easy to integrate and available online, on-device and in physical toys using embedded chips,” said Farrows.

Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com