Save this teddy bear’s life with Apple’s ARKit

Children love to play doctor, but the imagination has to do a certain amount of heavy lifting. Teddy bears, by their very nature, tend not to get better because they’re made of stuffing and buttons, rather than living cells and organs. Not so Parker: a teddy bear for the augmented reality generation from Seedling, which children can nurse back to health.

App-connected toys are nothing new, but what sets Parker apart – other than his malingering nature – is the fact that he doesn’t contain any active technology. If you were to move beyond the wooden medical implements provided to perform a traumatising dissection, all you’d find would be stuffing and fur. No battery, no camera, no WiFi chip: to all intents and purposes, Parker is a teddy bear like any other.

The magic happens with the accompanying app along with the wooden stethoscope, spoon, thermometer and medicine bottle which Parker seems to bring to all of his doctor’s appointments. Diagnose problems with the accompanying app, and then provide the correct treatment to make Parker feel better. As Parker’s sickliness evaporates, you unlock extra AR content within the app to dress up the world around him with an undersea garden, or a mushroom forest.

While the wooden toys provide a way for the child to directly connect with Parker, the app has a number of dedicated experiences – fight stomach bugs by squashing germs, for example, or use 3D touch to test Parker’s lung capacity.

I really like this idea – to me, it seems like a tech toy done right, with technology enhancing the experience, rather than taking over. Parker is soft, squishy and huggable – and he’s not at the mercy of firmware updates, a flat battery or being hacked by people who hate fun.

The concept certainly seems to have impressed Apple, which has won the exclusive rights to sell Parker at and in Apple stores in “select countries”. It’s not clear if that includes the UK – perhaps Parker is at the end of a long NHS waiting list. I’ve contacted Seedling, and will update this post when we have a definitive answer.

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