APP FOR CHILDREN BEDTIME STORIES

The children of the 1980s and 90s grew up with parents and grandparents narrating stories of the valour of Prince Ram, of the witty Tenali Rama and animal tales from Panchantra. But hectic work schedules and countless last-minute meetings are now threatening to upset that delightful evening ritual for the millennial parents. Meet Neo, a little orange-coloured storyteller, that is designed for parents and grandparents to narrate the age-old fables in today's digital era, even when they are physically away. Using an app, parents can read out stories that are recorded and sent to 'Neo' via Internet and the child can listen to these stories whenever he/she wants. The toy -- which looks like a little monster with two blue antennae -- has a storage capacity of 1GB, enough to accommodate 100 stories. "While Neo can never substitute the parent, it does allow the parents to have their little ones listen to stories in their own voice. It is also a great way for grandparents to connect with the child, given the current trend of nuclear families," says Social Toys co-founder Amit Deshpande. He added that parents can also select from a database of stories created by a community of parents. "There are many ways for kids today to listen to stories, be it through TV or mobile phones. Neo is a toy that can be hugged and held by kids. Its mischievous look makes it popular among kids," he said. The company plans to start selling the toy in January next year and is currently raising USD 14,000 through crowd-funding. Social Toys, which has raised USD 1,881 so far, will offer Neo at a discounted price of USD 44 (Rs 2,800) to those participating in the crowd-funding. The toy will be retailed at about Rs 3500, when it is made available to public. The company will engage in discussions with e-commerce companies to retail the product. "In the first year, we are looking at selling about 5,000 to 7,000 of the Neo toys," Deshpande said. Connected toys are a subject of discussion globally on concerns of privacy and the kind of data that the toy collects. One such toy was My Friend Cayla, a doll that uses Internet to search what the child said and then answer basis on its search. The doll has reportedly been banned in Germany on allegations of it being an illegal surveillance device. Deshpande clarified that 'Neo' does not capture any user data. "The parent just needs to sign up with their email ID, which is a standard practice. There is a delivery address for the toy that is needed. However, we do not collect any data with respect to the child as the toy is not responding to the child per se," he added.

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