LeapFrog Introduces Wee Wearable

Wearables are headed to kindergarten, with LeapFrog announcing plans to introduce LeapBand, a fitness tracker for kids, in August. 

The Emeryville, Calif.-based company says LeapBand will combine playful physical activities with virtual pets, including a dog, dragon, monkey, or panda. By tracking 50 different activities and challenges -- such as “walk like a crab,” or “spin like a helicopter” -- kids earn points, which allow them to unlock additional games, levels of play and rewards.

While the company claims its device is a first, Michelle M. Garrison, a researcher at the Seattle Children's Research Institute at the University of Washington, points out that others -- including iBitz, a wireless pedometer -- have beaten LeapFrog to the punch and work well for young children. “One of the things this tracker does add, however, is direct feedback for the child to see changes in physical activity. While some fitness trackers that work well for adults and older children offer this,” she tells Marketing Daily, including Vivofit and Fuelband, “this is the first one I've seen for young children that does.” 

And while researchers have found that such consumer devices have accuracy issues, especially when gauging children’s activity, they do “tend to be effective at encouraging people to move more, even if they tend to overestimate daily activity by a little,” she says.

However, she says the LeapBand raises two concerns. First, she says it seems bulky enough to interfere with the way kids play. And, secondly, “the device apparently rewards physical activity with screen time in the form of small video games. That sends mixed messages to children about the desirability of screen time vs. physical activity.”

LeapBands, which will sell for $39.99, contain a rechargeable battery and are water resistant, with an accelerometer and a high-resolution color screen. The company is also offering a free companion app, Petathlon, that allow kids to earn medals and tracksuits for their pets.

While NPD Group says the category is too new to have a dollar amount attached to it, the Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research company says sales of youth electronics, a category that includes the hot kids’ tablets category, rose 32% in 2013, to $600 million.

It’s just one more indication that pundits who christened 2014 the “year of the wearable” are on target. Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it has created a new store on its site, dedicated to the fast-growing field of fitness trackers, wearable cameras, and smartwatches.

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