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Small Children Jam to NFC-Enabled Jukebox

The Jooki, from MuuseLabs, is intended to allow children to listen to their favorite music, without the added distractions of a smartphone or tablet, by placing an NFC-tagged figurine on a speaker equipped with a reader and a Wi-Fi connection.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 30, 2018

Belgium-based technology startup MuuseLabs is marketing a Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled music-listening system that enables young children to access songs without becoming immersed in screen-based entertainment. The Jooki—which the company describes as a jukebox for kids—is an intelligent speaker device with a built-in 13.56 MHz NFC reader and Wi-Fi functionality. The device captures the unique ID numbers of NFC-tagged figurines placed on its surface, then plays mixes of music or stories on its speaker. An app enables parents of children using the toy to set up playlists and link them to specific characters.

The smart speaker for kids was brainstormed by Theo Marescaux, the company's co-founder and CEO, following a 2013 incident with his daughters, who were then three and four-and-a-half years old, respectively. They wanted to listen to music—a specific song which he accessed with his smartphone, and which they wanted to hear again and again.

The Jooki
Eventually, Marescaux says, "My phone disappeared and then the kids disappeared from me as well, behind the screen." Like many parents, he adds, he wanted to keep his young children from engaging with screen-based entertainment for as long as possible. However, accessing music was proving almost impossible without a phone, tablet or computer.

Marescaux was the product manager at technology company Barco, and has a background in microelectronics engineering. With some technical knowhow on his side, he decided to develop a technology-based solution for his parenting challenge.

"It was a weekend project for me," Marescaux says, during which he built a webcam into a box, with QR codes attached to wooden blocks and some basic software to enable QR links to specific songs. With QR codes, however, "It didn't work well enough," he states. "It was too hard to align the [QR codes on] the cubes with the optical scanner." In addition, the webcam would make the product too expensive for many families. He and his company's co-founders began exploring NFC technology.

The firm installed an off-the-shelf NFC reader chip and antenna into the speaker device, then applied NFC tags to character figurines that the company developed uniquely for the toy. Each tag's unique ID is stored in the speaker system. (Marescaux declines to name the NFC product manufacturers.)

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