Maker of Ubooly, the smart toy that tells stories, is bought by Cartwheel Kids

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Published on Oct. 17, 2014
Maker of Ubooly, the smart toy that tells stories, is bought by Cartwheel Kids
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Smart Toy, previously named Ubooly, the maker of smart stuffed toys, has been acquired by Culver City-based Cartwheel Kids, a maker of children’s products. Though the company was founded in Boulder, Colorado, it had recently been in Los Angeles participating in the Disney Accelerator program developing its new interactive toy.
 
Ubooly, Smart Toy’s first product, is a bit like a Furbee with a screen for a face. That face is an iPhone or iPod that is slipped into a fuzzy stuffed animal body. The iPhone or iPod runs an app that children interact with. The app recognizes voice commands and encourages child imagination by telling stories and jokes, playing games, and instructing art lessons. To ensure children are never bored with it, the Ubooly app is updated each month via the Internet with new stories, lessons and interactions.
 
Smart Toy was founded in 2012 by husband-and-wife team Isaac Squires and Carly Gloge in Boulder, Colorado. Though the company graduated from the Colorado-based accelerator program Techstars in 2012, it also recently went through the Disney Accelerator 2014 program to work on its latest product. It was one of two Colorado companies and Techstars graduates to go through the Disney Accelerator. The other was Sphero, a smart phone controlled toy maker, which recently announced it would be making a new connected toy for the Disney franchise Star Wars.
 
Cartwheel Kids has licensing rights to Hello Kitty, My Little Pony, Peter Rabbit and Ever After High, but doesn’t yet have an interactive toy. The purchase of Smart Toy will be their first launch into that category. Cartwheel Kid’s distribution network and marketing expertise should also help Smart Toy sell larger volumes.
 
“Smart Toy is leveraging today’s technology to make toys more engaging while managing to keep the experience simple,” said Sunny Lauridsen, SVP of sales and marketing for Cartwheel Kids, in a statement. “Their expertise in software development and razor-sharp focus on improving the user experience is unparalleled. We’re uniquely positioned to make a major impact on the toy industry.”
 
Smart Toy’s next interactive stuffed animal doesn’t appear to have a screen, like its Ubooly predecessor. In fact, Smart Toy said that it would be ready out of the box. That most likely means the toy will not be dependent on a smart phone, but will instead have an independent computer within. That version will be launched at CES in 2015.
 
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