The Digital Inventors Workshop

Speakers: Anna VAn SleeCarla FisherDan JudkinsJonathan BurnsKeith MaddisonMary Couzin


Mary Couzins, the creator of the Chicago Toy and Game Fair, knows that being an inventor has its challenges. With the help of the most influential inventors in the business, she’ll be leading the Inventor’s Workshop, helping us wind our way through the complexities of everything from financing to packaging, store presence to patents.

 Anna VAn Slee, Account Director

Manifest Digital

Carla Fisher, President

No Crusts Interactive

Dan Judkins, Senior Director of Integrated Play

Hasbro Inc.

Jonathan Burns, Chief AR Architect


Keith Maddison, AR Architect-Business Development


Mary Couzin, Founder and CEO

Chicago Toy and Game Group

20140108-094627.jpg*** Many of these panelists were changed due to flight delays

How to finance your project?

Sphero – ventur backed -the venture capitalist has to believe in the vision.

Kickstarter is great for initial success, then your capitol needs will quickly become apparent.

User stats are critical in raising capitol! Sphero – He knows how far all spheres roll every 20 seconds.

Acknowledging the ecosystem is important.

Kids are consuming content concurrently with all other media and distractions. Understand that the product must fit within the kid’s awareness among these other digital things.

Furby – app enhanced component – What does it mean physically? What does it mean digitally? It’s a balance of physical and digital. Most products don’t make sure they are satisfying in BOTH ways.

Digital has changed the “vision” of the prototype:

The benefit of a 15 second video with the current prototype and then an AE rendering of the final vision is all you need.

Building towards a tech core family.

Sphero- the play experience has changed — outside of a “demographic” to making the play desirable to all ages. Digital enables the experience – the drinking game can also be a great “hot potato” game.

Open source software for a hardware toy.

Patenting? Protect your technology that you developed– it’s a foundation but it dons;t happen right away anyway.

They opened up an SDK so that others could use the hardware without touching the proprietary hardware & firmware. So apps can be made, but they are good but not great.

The part time developers are not developing to the level of professionalism that the company itself can spend money on to make happen. They curate the apps that are released by developers to preserve the experience.

Kickstarter is a bit of a risk because your sharing the idea with the world.

Hasbro – inventions are submitted to them.

They look for cool stuff on Kickstarter – but kickstarter is really hard to get something great and also fund it.

They are looking out for the experience of the toys i.e. Furby having apps released that do not align with their vision.

Digital Brands – Apps 

We have a great product, we need an app — or maybe that’s not the next experience that they need.

“Here’s the great experience now slap on the App.— doesn’t work” “Don’t do a slap app” lol

Is it inherently physical or digital? What’s the right ratio? Find it, and let it guide you.

Using libraries for user testing?

Education is a key, but constant user testing throughout the product development process is key, so they do it but less publicly.

But it’s a great idea: for an inventor, using libraries as a focus group could be wonderful.

Obstacles & Opportunities

Mary: Obstacle: Communication, translating your product and communicating the idea — that’s also the biggest opportunity. The platforms and media change, and acknowledging that kids are different now because of growing up with

Sphero : Obstacle: Cash  Opportunity: Getting into the zone of physical and digital — it’s transformative

Hasbro: Opportunity: Focus on the experience, the technology is there or will be there

Inventor: Obstacle: Quantity of ideas Opportunity: if your lucky enough to team with hasbro, the resources of the big company can be monumental


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