Aryaball Kickstarts Into Motion

AryaBall HeadshotWith kids today constantly craning their necks down toward their iPhones and tablets, sometimes the perfect pick-me-up is a day at the park. But what parent wants to resemble a gym teacher or clutter up the car with a ton of sporting equipment just to keep their kids busy? Thanks to Babak Forutanpour, they don’t have to.

Forutanpour, owner and head coach of Aryaball, encourages active play through his new toy invention. The Aryaball and Aryabat are foam products made for kids ages 3 to 10. It allows kids to play five sports at once—with just one ball and one bat. The outer shell of the product is a full sized, regulation 5 soccer ball. The ball then opens up to reveal a football and flying disc. The football also twists and opens to uncover a soft baseball with the dimples of a golf ball. Kids can play baseball with the Aryabat or swing the tip out 90 degrees to turn it into a golf putter.

Forutanpour was inspired to create the product one afternoon when he was at the park with his son Arya. The two were throwing a football around when Arya, who the business is named after, asked to play soccer instead. Foruntapour did not have any other sports equipment with him, but after his son insisted, the pair ended up kicking the football to try to use it as a soccer ball.

AryaBall Product“That’s when it dawned on me that I’m not the only dad who forgot to bring all the balls to the park,” Forutanpour said. “I didn’t want to carry a bag with the soccer ball, baseball, football, and golf. I could reinvent the football and soccer ball. It’s about solving a problem I saw.”

The trip to the park was also cut short because Forutanpour’s kids just wanted to go back home and play on their electronic devices. This was precisely the motivation he needed to bring new innovation to the active play category.

“I think it’s time to rethink the active play category a bit and make products that are easier to use, more fun, and more compact,” Forutanpour said. “It seems like a lot of change in active sports has been related to increased volume and decreased pricing, where I haven’t really seen real innovation.”

Forutanpour came up with designs in his garage soon after the trip to the park. The most current result was generated after several rounds of prototyping. One of the initial designs included a football with two removable end caps to turn into a soccer ball. Forutanpour built these different prototypes with soccer balls and footballs that he had bought. Eventually, he purchased a 3-D printer to create new, original models and make them better each time instead of using real soccer balls and footballs. A 3-D printer prints hot, melted plastic into different shapes, which was used to create the two bowls that threaded together to make a soccer ball.

The Aryaball business has evolved from a father-son activity to a full family affair. Forutanpour’s two children have tested each prototype and given feedback. Along with Arya, who inspired the product, Forutanpour’s daughter Darya helped him tie in additional sports. After several models, prototypes, and tests from his children, Foruntanpour feels as though his product is ready for others to enjoy. He launched the AryaBall on Kickstarter on February 11.

The product’s Kickstarter campaign will run through March 28. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding website where consumers can pledge money toward a project before a certain deadline. The creator receives the raised funds only if the project reaches its goal.  Multiple toy companies have used this platform to launch their new products, often exceeding their initial goals, including Goldieblox, Tek Recon, and Ubooly.

Forutanpour heard about Kickstarter from a friend and has kept a close eye on it as his business developed and as crowd-funding became more prevalent. He has donated to 11 other projects on the website prior to launching the AryaBall and decided it would be a useful platform to fund his product and gage consumer interest.

“I think we are very fortunate to live in a time where there is a platform of crowd-funding to put a product out there and see if people like it,” said Forutanpour. “If people like it and are willing to spend their hard-earned money to pre-order this product, then that is the validation I need to press go and move forward.”

The AryaBall’s Kickstarter goal is $35,000. So far, the business has been entirely self-funded by Forutanpour, so the next stage is to make multicavity tools to produce the product. A multicavity tool would allow for multiple AryaBalls and AryaBats to be made at a time. Ultimately, the more money the AryaBall is able to raise, the more efficient it would be to manufacture the product.

“The response has been really positive so far, so I’m hoping we have a successful Kickstarter to get these balls made and shared with people,” said Forutanpour. “We’ve been getting emails from people saying they want one.”

The price point for the AryaBall and AryaBat together is about $45 if the AryaBall reaches its fundraising goal and the minimum amount of tooling is available to manufacture the products. Consumers will also be able to purchase the products separately.

Although all of the engineering aspects of the product are done, Forutanpour would like to incorporate all feedback from consumers as Aryaball is introduced around the world. Once a final round of prototyping is finished, there will be another round of testing. Forutanpour hopes to get the product on shelves on mass and specialty stores in time for the holiday season.

The Aryaball was most recently a featured exhibitor at the American International Toy Fair in New York City from February 16 to 19. Shark Tank investor Daymond John, founder, president, and CEO of the fashion line Fubu, even stopped by the booth and chatted with Foruntanpour. The product was also featured on NBC’s Today Show as a Hot New Toy for this year.

Click on the video below to see the AryaBall in action.

Bowboard – Just Gravity and You

Bowboard2A unique product recently launched on Kickstarter is looking to change the way we skateboard and scooter, by making one ride-on device that encompasses it all. Developed by Chris Miller, the Bowboard merges a bow, frame, and spiral-gearing mechanism to propel riders forward by using gravity as the main source of motion. The Bowboard is unlike anything you’ve seen before and the bowboarding motion gives The Wave (which mirrors the experience of surfing on the street), scooters, and skateboards a run for their money.

When you first look at the Bowboard you immediately wonder how on earth do you use it, but it’s actually quite easy. The rider stands on the center of the bow with either one or two feet (however you feel most comfortable at first) and as his or her body weight pushes down on the bow, it spins the back wheel using the spiral-drive technology. The other alternative is the kick-and-go method, which is a great way to start off and pick up speed (this motion is most similar to riding a scooter). [Read more...]

Modarri Kickstarts a New Breed of Toy Car

ModarriThoughtFull Toys has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Modarri, a line that seeks to reinvent the toy car space. The company’s intent is to create toy cars that are sleek and durable, yet also drivable, buildable, and interchangeable.

Modarri cars can be disassembled and redesigned by changing their parts, leading to hands-on experimentation with real physical objects. In addition, kids can learn about the physics and mechanics of suspension and steering by driving the cars around, and feel the differences in performance by swapping out parts.

Suitable for kids ages 6 and up, Modarri cars are built using a combination of metal and high strength plastic, with no screws. The planned color prototypes of Modarri include the Street Car S1, Dirt Car X1, and Track Car T1; and each car includes chassis, hood/windshield, seat pan, seat, fenders and frame, hex tool, wheels, and front and rear suspension. [Read more...]

Seamless Toy Co. Launches ATOMS

ATOMSATOMS, smart building blocks from Seamless Toy Co. that began life as a Kickstarter project, are now available. With ATOMS, kids can create things as fast as they can imagine them: For example, a bashful talking pet monster that loves hiding under tables, or a stuffed cat that “meows” by waving a magic wand.

Suitable for kids ages 6 and up, ATOMS have no exposed elements or magnets, and come in starter sets that contain everything kids need to build monsters, magic wands, and robots. They are also designed to integrate with Lego, Barbie, and action figures, giving old toys new possibilities.

Seamless is also introducing an ATOMS iOS app later this month, which enables kids to add virtual ATOMS on their Bluetooth-enabled Apple iPad, iPod, or iPhone. Screen-based ATOMS can be used to control real ATOMS from across the room, and alternatively, real ATOMS can be used via the same Bluetooth link to remotely control features on iOS devices, such as the camera and music player. [Read more...]

The Mensch on a Bench is a New Hanukkah Tradition for the Whole Family

MosheThe Mensch on a Bench was created by Neal and Erin Hoffman, who were inspired to create an alternative to the Elf on a Shelf for their 4-year-old son Jacob.  After a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Mensch on a Bench makes its debut this holiday season.

The Mensch on a Bench book tells the story of Moshe the Mensch who was in temple with the Maccabees after they won the war against the Greeks. There was only enough oil for one night, so Moshe volunteered to sit on the bench and watch over the Menorah while the rest slept. Each night, Moshe incorporates a different Jewish tradition into the story.

In addition to the hardcover book, families receive their very own 12-inch plush Mensch to watch over their own Menorah. The Mensch loves to play dreidel, eat Latkes, sing songs, and be with family.

The Mensch on a Bench is available in limited quantities and available exclusively at themenschonabench.com.

COMMENTARY: World Maker Faire Is Where D-I-Y Meets T-O-Y-S!

MakerFaire,crowdshot,littleBitsThis past weekend, under terrific late-summer weather, the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., was the site of this year’s World Maker Faire. The massive, two-day-long science fair/state fair drew large crowds of hobbyists, educators, tech enthusiasts, and more. The exhibitors consisted of a wide range of crafty and tech-savvy folks working in a variety of medium—and they included quite a few toy companies.

Given that innovation and education are among the underlying principles of World Maker Faire—not to mention the larger “maker movement” as a whole—it wasn’t surprising to find many toys aimed at fostering intellectual curiosity in kids. It would take too much space to list them all, but here are three that struck my fancy. Each encourages learning in ways that are hands-on and inventive.

SparkleLabsSparkle Labs: The New York City-based company’s mission is to make science and engineering as approachable as possible. To that end, its Papertronics – Lunar Modules is an origami kit with cute designs on paper, to go with simple electronics that teach the basics of LED circuitry. Suitable for kids ages 8 and up, each kit includes all the materials necessary for three working lanterns: Spaceboy, Alien Girl, and Tabula Rasa. [Read more...]

Looski Pups Launches Kickstarter Campaign for Digital Puppies

looksipupsLooksi Pups, from Looksi, are described as a cross between Nintendogs and Tamagotchi. Looksi Pups transform a digital puppy into a physical puppy with the revolutionary 3-D Looksi Kennel. Download the free iPhone app, pop your iPhone into the Looksi Kennel, and the Looksi Pups comes to life in 3-D, tail wagging and ready to play.

The many features of Looksi Pups include seven different breeds of pups; 15 voice commands including fetch, boogie, and chase tail; voice recognition which responds only to the owner’s voice; a host of extra accessories, games, and tricks to be unlocked; interaction capabilities with other Looksi Pups, who can play in each others’ kennels; an alarm clock and “guard dog” function; games which use voice commands and the phone’s tilt sensors; and a protective tray to keep the phone safe and secure.

There is a campaign on Kickstarter to bring Looksi Pups to retail shelves that will run for 28 days. Would-be customers can pledge money towards the project in return for a variety of rewards.

Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band Releases Second Album

HeidiSwedbergHeidi Swedberg, best-known from her role of Susan on Seinfeld, has built a national reputation for her ukulele-inflected, interactive approach to family music-making. Swedberg produced her second album, My Cup of Tea, for national retail release on September 10. To produce the album of 13 songs, Swedberg raised more than $5,000 through crowd-funding site Kickstarter and involved many of her musician friends to create a diverse album.

Amidst frequent national touring with Heidi and the Sukey Jump Band, Heidi holds ongoing weekly music classes at McCabe’s and Los Angeles schools, plus elementary schools and other venues. Her lessons and chord charts are available via the Sukey Jump channel on GoChords. Heidi and the Sukey Jump Band plan concerts in Southern California this fall. Visit the Sukey Jump calendar page for scheduling details.

Get in the Game with Landing Mr. Right

mrrightLanding Mr. Right, from Alys & Victoria, is a grown-up version of Mystery Date, all about girlfriends sharing stories and inspiring each other to get in the game to land their Mr. Right.

Landing Mr. Right is a journey of self discovery. You have the opportunity to date outside your comfort zone and explore relationships with different types of men. You can take chances in the board game you might not in life.  And, when you share your dating stories with your girlfriends, a journey of new possibilities begins. While technically the first player to land on Mr. Right (a space on the board) is the winner, all girlfriends who play the game win as they learn more about the guys they could be dating as well as themselves.

You roll the die, pick your guy, and share your story. The game revolves around dating six types of men: Blue Blood, CEO, Regular Guy, Rock Star, Triathlete, and Techno-Geek. When you choose a Date card, you are free to select whomever you’d like to date—just like in life. The guys take you on exciting dates to ten destinations around the board. But, whether your date gets you closer to or further away from Landing Mr. Right is all in the cards. After your date, you pick a Your Story card with a question that prompts you to share dating experiences with your girlfriends. From, “who was the first boy you kissed and is he now a friend on Facebook?” to whether your last relationship was sealed with a kiss or the great kiss-off– your answers get you thinking, laughing, and discovering new things about yourself, your dating choices, and the best kept secrets of your closest girlfriends.

Launching now on Kickstarter, Landing Mr. Right will be available in time for the holidays.  The creators, Alys Daly & Victoria Brewer are seasoned marketing professionals and dating experts who seek to inspire confidence in women through their humor and experience in everything from dating to personal styling.

COMMENTARY: It’s Not Easy Being Pink

Recently, we wrote about a petition from mom Melissa Wardy for Lego to release a set of female scientist figures. After seeing that only 16 percent (11 percent if you don’t count the Lego Friends line) of Lego minifigures are females, Wardy knew something had to be done. She learned that one of the entries in one of Lego’s public contests to design new building sets featured a female minifigure series that included a paleontologist, a robotics engineer, a geologist, an astronomer, a chemist, a judge, and a fire fighter. This entry raised the amount of votes necessary to be considered for production, so Wardy started a petition to have these females in the STEM fields available on shelves, available for all kids to play with.

With positive role models—for girls and boys—being incredibly important, especially in a time where bullying is a very present topic in the media, I think that the toy industry is beginning to shape a new generation of women by not overlooking the importance of construction sets for girls that inspire them to be more than just “pink.” Here are a few examples (including Lego Friends) of construction sets that present introduce girls to bigger opportunities.

One of the main issues many folks have with girls’ construction sets, such as the Lego Friends line, is that they are very “pink-washed.” Just because the set is designed for girls, does everything have to have a splash of pink across it? The Lego Friends line’s newest product breaks down those gender barriers and creates a play set in its girls’ line that isn’t so pink—and even includes a boy minifigure.

heartlakehighStephanie and Matthew attend Heartlake High, where they study plants under microscopes, experiment with chemical reactions, and look through an astronomy telescope in science and biology classes. Heartlake High provides a well-rounded cirriculum, with an art class and a music class as well. After school Stephanie and Matthew can play basketball with the hoop outside or go for a bike ride. The Heartlake High set includes Stephanie, Matthew, and Ms. Stevens mini-doll figures. [Read more...]