Anna van Slee on ChiTAG Spotlights Digital Inventing at CES

When your plane is the only one out of hundreds of flights not to get cancelled... it's a little like winning the lottery. Especially when you are leaving behind blizzard-beset Chicago for warm and sunny Las Vegas. Good thing I wasn't going to Vegas to gamble, because I used up all my luck just getting there. I was one of 200,000 people attempting to shake off the cold and descend upon Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, better known as CES.

The Chicago Toy and Game Group is right at home at CES, because the show is rife with inventors. The consumer electronics category is booming with new products and innovation. In fact, CES is so gargantuan that it's broken into mini-conferences focused on specific industries, such as Healthcare or Automobiles. Kids@Play and Mommytech are the CES show sections focused on the impact of consumer electronics on the play industry. Aside from taking in the sights, I headed to CES to participate in a Kids@Play panel moderated by Mary Couzin, President and CEO of ChiTAG. The panel was assembled to spotlight the benefits and challenges of being a toy and game inventor in today's digital world.

One-in-six is tough odds, and I definitely was in the black: I was the only one of my six fellow panelists to make it out to Las Vegas. Thankfully, Lady Luck wasn't through with me yet! Amazingly, in a span of 8 hours, I was able to assemble a rockstar panel that included: Paul Berberian, CEO of Orbotix; Carlos Dominguez, from Hasbro's iPlay Department; Brian Torney, Cofounder of Otherdoor Entertainment; and Andrew Jeas, from Hasbro's Special Projects Division. Acting as moderator for this group, I felt like I had won the jackpot.

The hour-long panel yielded a meaningful exploration of a variety of topics, including digital technology's influence on inventors' products, funding, communication and marketing. Andrew Jeas discussed how digital technology has changed the way he interacts with inventors. Rather than getting a prototype in the mail, he can receive a 3D model that he can print right at the office with a 3D printer. Paul Berberian provided valuable insights into how Sphero's open source software has helped him get investment to grow his company. (He joking claimed that "CEO" stands for "Cash Extraction Officer".) Brian Torney and Carlos Dominguez debated how digital technology has changed expanded play beyond traditional toys and games.

Toys and games were everywhere at CES: Despite having an official "home" at Kids@Play and Mommytech, CES show-goers could find toys and games throughout all the industries represented on the show floor. From thermometers to coffee tables, play is a competitive feature in the Internet of Things. "Play" and "digital" go together like Las Vegas and gambling, and we're going to see more of it in the inventions to come. That's a sure bet. 

Photo Thumbnail from the CES 2014 blog. "The Digital Inventors Workshop" by Natasha Duzny

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Anna Van Slee is Director of our toy-inspired fashion show, PlayCHIC. She is co-founder of Other Door entertainment – a unique invention company focused on native multi-platform brand and product development. Anna has played in all realms of the toy and game industry, including producing traditional visual merchandising collateral; writing and directing animated entertainment; launching social, mobile and digital branded experiences; designing and developing products; and building brands. She has worked with hit global brands such as Transformers, Happy Meal, My Little Pony, Moshi Monsters – and more. On weekends, Anna enjoys eating steak tacos loaded with onion and cilantro, while reading sci-fi novels.