Tonies is a connected speaker for children with Amiibo type figures

Getting started, however, is a bit trickier. The first thing you need to do is charge the unit using the included base station. It is quite easy to slide the box onto the white round disc. A kid three or older could easily do this on their own, but I wouldn’t let them get close to this thing because, well, watch it:

Kris Naudus / Engadget

It’s only about half an inch long, but that little metal plug in the middle just seems to end up putting out someone’s eye. I have enough experience with kids to know that they are experts at stabbing themselves in new and creative ways and it sounds like the kind of thing that if left in their play area they will fall first on the face. However, since this is already available in Europe and there doesn’t appear to be a scary epidemic, I may not be giving American children enough credit. But if you also get SNL “Consumer probe“.

You will also need to configure the Toniebox internet connection, which is not the easiest process. If you’ve ever had to install a smart home device, you know it isn’t always fun. You’ll have to do all of this by connecting directly to the device through your phone and then connecting it to your WiFi, and sometimes it just doesn’t want to do either. You will also need to download the app and create an account for it.

It's Toniebox

Kris Naudus / Engadget

Once you’ve eliminated all of that, you can take a step back and let the child do their thing. The controls are fairly straightforward; tighten one of the ears to wake up the device. To play a song, simply place one of the Tonie figures, like Pinocchio or Elsa, on top of the Toniebox and wait for the light to turn from green to blue. If this is the first time Tonie is being used, the speaker will need to download the backing tracks, but once the music is preloaded on the box, it will automatically play. To pause the track, simply remove the figure; if the figure is returned to the top, the audio will resume. The Tonies connect with magnets so it is not easy to drop them.

If the box is tilted to the left, the track will rewind by tilting to the right to fast forward a bit. However, flipping it on its side will not put it in these modes permanently; it will move back or forward a little, then resume reading. A tap on each side should move a track backward or forward, but I’ve found a little more force than needed: a good slap will do it, and I’m sure your child will have fun with it. And the device can certainly be beaten; mine fell to the floor a few times with only a few scuffs on the white plastic to mark its fall (which I cleaned with an eraser). The heavy, hand-painted figures are also quite durable (although I haven’t tested them with a determined child yet).

Creative-Tonie on Toniebox

Kris Naudus / Engadget

The application allows you to manage certain functions remotely, such as adjusting the maximum speaker volume and dimming its lighting. You can also see all figurines that have been saved to the device and delete them from your library (if, for example, the figurine has been borrowed or lost). But the key feature is the ability to record audio for your “Creative-Tonies,” which are special figures to which custom tracks can be assigned to them. You can sing songs, read stories, or just leave messages for your kids. Other users you assign to a family account can do the same, so it’s pretty easy to surprise your child with a greeting from a grandparent or parent serving overseas.

Even though the audio is entirely stored in the cloud, the chances of someone hacking and recording obscene messages for your child are low, as you have to physically press a button on the Toniebox for Creative-Tonies to load new tracks. audio. . (I wouldn’t say that’s entirely impractical, though.)

Elsa from 'Frozen'

Kris Naudus / Engadget

For prerecorded content, your choices are largely public domain audio like fairy tales, or popular cartoon licenses like Despicable Me and Frozen. Finally, another way for your child to put Let it go in rehearsal!

The audio is completely professionally produced – some of the tracks are licensed from audiobooks compiled by companies like Scholastic, featuring well-known actors such as Robert Guillaume and Imelda Staunton. But even the original content sounds good, and the fact that the company is crediting the narrators and the production house is a sign of real effort. Most Disney characters have around 22 minutes of content, while song and story collections can be up to 100 minutes long.

Pinocchio Tonie

Kris Naudus / Engadget

For me, the biggest sticking point, after the difficult setup, is the price: not the Toniebox itself, although it could be a little cheaper than $ 99. These are the Tonies themselves. If they remind you of Amiibo, well guess what, they are priced very similar to $ 15 each. The price is the same whether it’s licensed or in the public domain, or whether the program is 20 or 90 minutes long.

I would say Generic Tonies are a better deal as they offer more programming. If you really need Disney content, I really think you’d better buy an Audible audiobook for less than $ 20 and pass it through a Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition. The Toniebox is for parents who really, really, really don’t want a smart speaker near their child, and it does its job well.

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