Toio is a new game console by Sony, but it’s not for your typical video games like the PlayStation 4. Instead, the cartridges are AI programs. The controllers are motion control rings. And the thing you play is really a pair of tiny robotic cubes on wheels–which you can dress up in papercraft, or even snap on Lego.
Spotted by Spoon & Tamago, it’s essentially a coding game–or maybe, a post-coding, crafting game–that never uses the phrase “learn to code.” Instead, the purpose is “Moving hands. Thinking crazy. Coincidental discovery,” the project page says. “To the children making the future, an original experience of ingenuity.”
At the heart of Toio live two core cubes. They can sense the exact position of one another and move with incredible precision. (Seriously, watch the videos to understand just what it means when two robots move like gears of a fine watch.) The cubes themselves aren’t really the toy. They’re more like building blocks of a toy. Tape them to a single piece of paper, and they’ll crawl along like an inchworm. Add a paper pair of pants and they look like feet taking careful steps. From building organic-looking paper organisms, to creating “craft fights” with shooting, puzzle-solving, chasing, and sports, the limitations are only in your imagination–and, okay, optional add-on packs, too.
Because what makes a lot of these magical experiences possible is the cartridge system, which plugs into the Toio console itself (a base unit that actually charges the Toio cubes and remotes). Rather than coding programs, Toio players can purchase additional AIs to play with and riff upon with their own, physical creativity. The aforementioned robo battle Craft Fights are one pack, and the Craft Life kit–which lets you build robotic organisms–is another that you see below. Each comes with a special mat for the robots to play on, along with a kit with paper cutouts, and the AI cartridge itself.
But the kits are just a stepping off point. Crafting with Toio cubes almost resembles playing with a younger sibling, or perhaps, a very patient pet: You dress them up, try silly games, and probably go through a lot of tape and glue in the process.
To be honest, Toio looks even more fun than Lego’s new programmable platform.
We tend to compartmentalize Sony as a company known for music players, TVs, and quirky storage systems like Minidisc. But at its best, Sony is also one of the most clever, and experimental, robotics companies on the planet. With the Aibo, Sony built a robotic dog–a design so beloved that its owners must scrounge for repair parts today lest they lose their family pet. With the Rolly, an admittedly less beloved musical ball . . . thing . . . Sony at least had the guts to try it again. And now, Sony has debuted Toio, a project five years in development. Sure, Toio is something that is also pretty difficult to conceptualize as any product we know, but that’s also what makes it so darn irresistible.
Toio sets are available for pre-order now to ship this December. They start at around $200, but most will set you back $300.