TonieBox, the original story box for children that experiments with generative AI – Futura

Among the story boxes for children there is the Toniebox, a cube that reads stories about a character when you place your character on it. It is also possible to create original content. Futura tested it and a child also tested it.

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Rituals are also entitled to their digital revolution. This includes the stories that we read to the little ones in the evening to help them fall asleep. However, small devices that read stories suitable for children have been available for several years. They are particularly popular in France, where almost twenty models are available. There is the French Lunii or even the Merlin. Since they have almost no screen, they all work pretty much the same. You need to install an application on the smartphone, connect the device to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and transfer the selected stories to it.

But among these story boxes, one brand offers a completely different approach. They are Tonies and this German company is second in sales in France with its Toniebox. To read a story you have to place a small figure on a cube. Reading is instant. There are actually no buttons and the child interacts directly by placing the figure of their choice. There are more than 700 different ones for each story theme. This story box is the result of the imagination of two German fathers in 2016. They were looking for an easy and interactive way for their own young children to listen to stories themselves.

Each character has their own stories

Learning the options in the box is also “childish”. As soon as the figure is placed on the stand, the stories are immediately read. There are two ears. When you press the big button, the sound becomes louder. Things are going downhill with the little one. To move on to the next story, simply tap the right side of the cube. “Childish” therefore, but before using the box you must download the MyTonies application (iOS, Android) and create a user account. The process then consists of waking up the box by connecting it to the charger. It is necessary to connect it to the home WiFi network. The configuration is done very quickly. We then access various content that can be downloaded. This content is listened to by a small figure placed on the box and named Tonie Créatif. It allows you to change stories regularly and parents can also record their stories in their own voice through the application.

Amazement is guaranteed on the child’s part. It is very easy to use. What makes this object so special besides this Tonie Creatif are the figures called Tonies. There are more than 700 and something for every taste. There are certain classics with universes like Disney and its characters or like the PAW Patrol characters or even more general characters like a turtle. With them there is no need to download stories, as soon as they are placed on the box, the corresponding stories are read immediately. Each character can tell stories for 30 to 50 minutes. There are also songs and lullabies. Their unit price is 14.99 euros. The story box with the creative tonies costs 89.99 euros.

An AI that invents stories

The company is currently testing a content generator based on artificial intelligence. It allows parents to create stories for their children in a fun way. The company is currently taking a cautious approach, limiting its testing panel to 1,000 families in the UK. GPT 3.5 from OpenAI is used in the “machinery”. To avoid the pitfalls that generative AI can bring (hallucinations, use of terms or topics not suitable for children), the app guides users through a predefined form.

We therefore find drop-down lists and text fields to indicate the name of the hero and his companions, the theme, the tone (humorous, fantastic, etc.) and the age of the child to adapt it to the corresponding vocabulary. The AI-powered generator then writes a script that users can record through the app itself so that the child hears their voice. It is also possible to convert this script into an audio file using ElevenLabs. Again, you can listen to this tailor-made story by placing a Tonie Créatif on the box. For now, Tonies told us that the feedback has been positive and that the rollout of this feature could happen quite quickly for all countries.