Toca Boca redesigns its Robot Lab to promote gender neutrality
- Parker Barry
Toca Boca (www.tocaboca.com), the Swedish play studio with over 70 million app downloads to date, has redesigned and relaunched Toca Robot Lab (originally released in 2011) to bring it into line with the gender-neutral design ethic that has proved so popular within its other digital toys. The newly redesigned Toca Robot Lab launched on the App Store on 25th September 2014.
Having undertaken an internal study of its existing products with gender analysts and experts, Toca Boca realised that Toca Robot Lab, although a popular toy with more than 750,000 downloads, actually had many of the conventional ‘boyish’ attributes traditionally associated with robots. The original product also cemented an inherently grown-up view of what a robot is, and as such, the app offered kids very traditional material. Following the examination of its existing apps, Toca Boca has now defined an official tailored gender neutrality process, by which it will design all of its future products, taking into account everything from character design, colour choice, and language used to describe the product, to how characters react within the app in terms of active or passive behaviour.
Using their collective experience from the past four years, along with the newly developed guidelines on creating unisex digital toys, the Toca Boca team applied this design process to Toca Robot Lab to create an appealing gender neutral app.
In a practical sense, this means that the new robot workshop offers imaginative, creative and fun parts that can be found anywhere in a child’s surroundings – not just in a tool shed. Children can create robots out of various reused and sustainable materials, including sweets, beads, coffee cups, electronic devices, straws, ping-pong paddles and pencils, all available in a multitude of colours and options. The new Toca Robot Lab offers more than 1.8 million different combinations of robot – creating a toy that stimulates children’s creativity without unduly steering the direction of play.
Mathilda Engman, Artist at Toca Boca and advocate on gender neutral design, comments:
“As a digital toy developer, over the past few years we have learnt that it is vitally important to not attempt to predetermine the direction of play; play is creative and open-ended, and not something that should have adult attitudes projected on to it. Unisex toys play an important part in this: kids should be able to play with whichever toys they want, without an adult having predetermined that dolls should be handed to the girls, and train sets to the boys. This is at the heart of Toca Boca as a company; we make digital toys for all kids, not just for girls or for boys.”
Another part of Toca Boca’s success has been creating products that are very much child-centric in design – as Björn Jeffery, CEO and Founder of Toca Boca, notes:
“Parents will often admit that they don’t really understand the inherent appeal and fascination of our apps, and what is appealing to a child is very different to what appeals to an adult. Adults tend to be focused on rules, and on the ‘right’ way to do something, whilst kids tend to be much more open minded when it comes to play. Treating children like little adults in this context doesn’t make sense, and because of this we make apps that are more about discovery and participation.”
Toca Boca digital toys are available to download from App store, Google Play, and Amazon.