Toys amuse. They sometimes teach. But they rarely contribute something useful to domestic life. As wonderful as a Lego pirate ship may be, it’s not setting the table or vacuuming the living room.
Dough Globe, by Mint Digital, was conceived as “a toy that has a reason to exist.” It’s a sourdough-filled ball that connects to a computer. And while a child rotates and spins the ball as part of a video game, inside, the bacteria culture is folded again and again into wet dough.
“As just a physical object, it’s a smart vessel for sourdough cultures,” creative director Utku Can tells Co.Design. “With the game layer, it’s something entirely different.”
The Dough Globe is pretty intelligent in its own right. The ball uses ethanol sensors to measure the overall health of the sourdough culture (an indicator that Mint Digital found to be superior to pH, temperature, or weight), and via Bluetooth and an Arduino, this data can be streamed to a computer. It’s in this digital realm that a hunk of dough–maybe not the most exciting prospect to a kid–becomes a character in a series of minigames played out in a living world that thrives or struggles depending on the health of the dough.
“It’s somewhere between a pet rock and a cat,” Can says. “Mostly, the purpose is just to have fun. But it does teach kids to look after a living thing and the responsibility of that.”
How many hours have we wasted to Tamagotchi and even Pokemon? Clearly, these digital pets strike a chord in us, capitalizing on some inner nurturing instinct that transcends even the compulsions of gaming. So now that we’ve so successfully nailed the formula, why not anchor those characters back to the analog realm in a way that actually makes the world around us better? (Especially if it involves delicious, crusty carbs.)
As of today, Dough Globe is just a working prototype. But don’t be shocked to spot it on Kickstarter soon.