Disruption is coming to the toy industry

Some time ago I was speaking at StartUp school fire side chat event for startup CEOs here in the capital region of Finland and their opening question was: ”Why did you become an entrepreneur? What was your vision when you started your business?”

That is a brilliant question. The answer is quite simple.

I wanted to become an entrepreneur, together with the incredible team at 3DBear, so that in the future children of the world can design and make their own toys.

That’s it.

I have been buying toys for my own children and as gifts for other children for years. Whether you are a parent or not, we have all been children once. Think of the toys from your childhood that you recall to this day. The ones you recall are most likely not the rather expensive plastic toys that someone bought to you. For most people – I have noticed – that is not the answer. Those are rather easy to forget.

Did you ever make that little toy ship out of bark as a child? Or the wooden horse? Chances are that you still have it somewhere on the shelf of your parents’ home or the like.

Chances are that such a simple toy you made yourself is much dearer to you than the multitude of expensive plastic toys that you got for your birthday. Most of them were a temporary pleasure, soon forgotten at the back of the drawer. The toys you invented or participated in making with your own hands, those are the once you remember and cherish to this day. At least that is the typical answer.

What we would really want to achieve at 3DBear is that one day toys are designed and 3D-printed, not just consumed. In addition, all of us should be able to recycle used toys, too. 3DBear is working hard to that end. We are going to publish an open source plastic recycler soon. This recycler will transform used 3D-prints into new raw material (filament) for 3D printers.

Make no mistake about it, 3D printers, creative children and recycling of plastic will mean a huge disruption for toy industry.

What is holding back this vision? Well first and foremost the forces of the established order.

Think about it this way: we have multibillion companies out there making their money from selling toys (and other such objects) made out of plastic. And the plastic is made out of oil, even when renewal sources for plastic would be available. It turns out that these establishment toys are made out of the same type of plastic that can be 3D printed with the most popular 3D printers.

These establishment companies will not even consider those options as they are selling the toys at huge margin and dislike anything that would reduce their margins. In addition, the financial incentive of these gigantic companies is to sell huge volumes of these injection molded plastic objects. If you or your children were able to create your own toys, that would mean you would not need their designs. And they certainly do not want you to recycle your toys, as that would prevent them from selling you more.

And let me be clear, I do not mean 3D-printing something that violates someone else's IPR rights. I mean sparking the curiosity and creativity of our children, so that they can create themselves whatever they want, 3D-print it and when done playing with it, recycle the plastic.

As Sir Ken Robinson has noted, human life is inherently creative and curios. It is the common currency of being a human being. 

Today's toys are too polished, too pre-assembled, too clinical. As a result, our children are passive consumers. These toys do not spark curiosity or creativity. 

The established order cannot stand.

Our children should be able to live in a creative and sustainable society, not just at the receiving end of a passive, wasteful and expensive consumer model.

This would pave the way for a transformation: away from consumption of disposable objects towards enjoyment of experiences.

In essence this is the next step of digitalization: the digitalization of objects. That is, you can create (= model in 3D), print and enjoy your toys when you want.

The creative process itself is as important as the result. And when you are done with using the object, you should be able to recycle it.

This vision starts with us equipping our children with the 21st century skills for 3D thinking.

That is why I wanted to become an entrepreneur.

Author is CEO of 3DBear

 

 

3DBear available in the US market via Junior Library Guild

Helsinki-based edtech software company 3DBear Ltd has signed an agreement with Junior Library Guild (JLG) that serves over 22 000 schools and libraries in the US. 

3DBear is an online learning tool for 3D printing, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) that is now available in the US through Junior Library Guild.

“We are very excited about cooperation with JLG and starting the US market as US is a pioneer in 3D printing and edtech”, says Kristo Lehtonen, CEO, 3DBear.

With 3DBear, any educator can master skills, step-by-step to the point where they can model and make whatever they want and integrate it to the school curriculum.

“Finland has a strong reputation in education and we believe that 3DBear’s offering fits perfectly with our overall offering. We are very much looking forward to the cooperation”, says Sean Lockwood, Vice President, Sales, Junior Library Guild. 

 

For more information:

Kristo Lehtonen, CEO, 3DBear Oy, +358 40 8032638, kristo@3dbear.fi, www.3dbear.fi 

Sean Lockwood, Vice President, Sales, Junior Library Guild, +1-800-743-4070, slockwood@juniorlibraryguild.com, www.juniorlibraryguild.com

The Bear at Bay

Second grade students from Alta Vista School, in San Francisco, teaching each other 3D modelling with 3DBear.

Second grade students from Alta Vista School, in San Francisco, teaching each other 3D modelling with 3DBear.

Our journey has been quite spectacular so far – in just a half a year our startup, 3DBear, has brought empowering pedagogic tools to the classroom, and combined them with the use of modern technologies such as 3D-printing, augmented reality, and virtual reality. We have taken gadgets, and integrated them into the, problem-solving centered, learning environments of the future.

Having co-developed our learning platform with the best educational system of the world – the schools in Finland – we are now proud to begin international expansion. In the future, all the children in the world will learn 21st century skills using our platform.  

We have now set up operations in states of New York, New Jersey and California in the USA. In March, we piloted our solution in the San Francisco Bay area schools.

 

3DBear is all set in New Traditions Elementary School, San Francisco

3DBear is all set in New Traditions Elementary School, San Francisco

The experiences from our first US users have been overwhelmingly positive; as the demand for smart digital teaching content for K-12 curriculum is high. Traditional school book publishers have been, basically, scanning old school books into a digital form. Needless to say, that is not the way forward. Online courses are too advanced for K-12. Educational games on the market contain too much game and too little education. Hardware without learning content, are just gadgets. This is indeed the sweet spot for smart educational solutions that will transform education.

Fifth grade students from Alta Vista School, SF, sharing their 3DBear classroom design with the rest of the class.

Fifth grade students from Alta Vista School, SF, sharing their 3DBear classroom design with the rest of the class.

In the Alta Vista School, in San Francisco, we spent a whole day doing demos with four different classes. In the second grade, students used the 3D connect the dots application we developed. With the application, they learnt about number series, (which are the basis of computer programming), spatial geometry, and scales. You can take a look how this works here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-juibeOEnM

Students taught each other to use the application on tablets, and they did it in our virtual reality app as well. Using the connect the dots app, they did problem solving in groups.

In New Traditions Elementary School, San Francisco, we had two intensive demo days. The fifth grade students 3D designed their own house, and shared their designs with each other. While doing so, they learned about scales, interior design, and areas. Students were given a design challenge in which they developed smart solutions by solving problems together. Take a look how this works here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SliGyOouUQQ

Students doing problem solving in groups with 3DBear, in the Alta Vista school, SF

Students doing problem solving in groups with 3DBear, in the Alta Vista school, SF

Personally, I have been really happy to see that our solution truly helps children to learn the skills that will be needed in the future, and their study results have only improved. I wish that I could have had access to tools like this when I was in school! I’ve also learned a lot. We’ve included pedagogic techniques such as the flipped class, overarching study, kinesthetic learning, and self-assessment into our solution. It’s been a pleasure to co-develop these with the best teachers in the world. I’ve also come to understand, that you do need 3D, in order to learn 3D. After all, we live in a three-dimensional world.

We will continue our journey, making every child in the world a creator and a designer. The bear will not be kept at bay.

Author: Jussi Kajala, COO of 3DBear

Author: Jussi Kajala, COO of 3DBear

3DBear at NyEdTechWeek

3DBear participated in perhaps the biggest EdTech event, the New York EdTechWeek

 

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3DBear was one of the most talked about - if not the most talked about - startup at the event. We were featured at the gallery of innovations and participated at the pitching competition.

It was a great event to meet lots of investors and teachers alike. 

 

See a picture stream here.

3DBear was also featured for some media, such as the great House of Edtech podcast.

For the event, 3DBear had launched a new Virtual Reality module. The app is now also available for free at Apple and Google app stores. 

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3DBear embracing the VR revolution

Due to popular demand we created possibility to operate our more popular apps using Virtual Reality (VR) glasses.

In the pictures you can see our CTO Olli Niskanen playing Connect-the-dots, which is a game teaching scales and number series. This was one of the challenges given to us by the national and municipal education authorities in Finland: develop something that teaches number series - the bedrock of software development - combining 3D. This we did. In our newest version of the app students can use VR glasses to connect the dots and in the process creating 3D models for 3D printing. See the result: a 3D printed heart in the last picture.

 

Is Slush worth the effort

I have been asked if Slush - the annual startup event in Helsinki, Finland - worth the effort. We participated in this year's Slush on 30th November and 1st December 2016. The benefit is manifold: meetings with investors and potential partners - as well as media. In fact, media was for us the biggest upside in this year's Slush.

3DBear was featured in the main news in Finland on the Public Broadcasting company YLE (see attached picture of Jussi being interviewed, URL here); in the biggest Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat for a live online streaming (URL here); Iltalehti, a popular daily tabloid newspaper (URL here); Associated Press interviewed us; Elisa, the biggest operator in Finland (URL here) etc. 

It was a very successful event indeed.

 

Writer is the CEO of 3DBear

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