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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

When a parent or player launches the system, he or she first downloads the Jooki app onto his or her iOS or Android device, or simply uses a computer to open the Jooki Rocks website. The user can upload audio files of music or stories, or their own recordings of themselves reading stories. The parent selects a playlist selects the character he or she wants to link to that playlist.

A child can simply pick up a particular figure and place it on the speaker. The NFC reader will capture each tag ID and forward it, via a Wi-Fi connection, to the Jooki software on its hosted server, and the system will play the music associated with the figurine. In this way, although that child's parent uses an app to enable the system, the child can access music without picking up a phone or other screen-based device.

MuuseLabs's Theo Marescaux
The system can also be used in streaming mode to simply play music via its Wi-Fi connection, from free services to which a child's parent has linked it. The company is now in the process of connecting the device with common music-streaming services, in order to enable users of those services to link playlists to the figurines without requiring that the playlists be established on the Jooki app. Because the speaker is Wi-Fi-based, Marescaux says, it can receive firmware upgrades, enabling the company to update and expand the toy's capabilities in the future.

Since the toy's release in November 2017, Marescaux says, consumers have been sharing videos of their children responding to the system, and he has been heartened by the way in which it has been used. "I have a blast every day watching them," he says. He has noticed, for instance, "When they put a character on Jooki, the first thing they do is start dancing." That's a large stretch from what happens when children access music on a phone, he explains, when they tend to sit and view a screen while the music is playing.

The toy is certified for children ages three and up, though Marescaux says teenagers and young adults have expressed an interest in using the device as well. "That's not the market we are actively pursuing," he says, though he acknowledges that he uses the toy himself to listen to music.

The system is priced at €199 ($244) for European customers, and will cost approximately US$199 during the coming months (currently, it is priced for U.S. customers at the conversion rate of about $240. with free shipping). It operates in two volume options: a softer, child-friendly mode and a "party" mode (which must be enabled by a parent using the app) that can be played at any volume. The child-friendly mode follows toy safety acoustic levels for kids starting at three year olds.

Users can order additional characters that come in a variety of colors, as well as tokens that can be decorated with stickers to make each unique. In that way, Marescaux says, players can create an unlimited number of playlists.

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