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Beyond Tablet Embraces Entertainment-Education By Combining Digital And Physical Play

“Beyond Tablet” is an interactive board game that aims to enhance traditional play and helps children learn while having fun. Beyond Tablet was granted the CES 2017 Innovation Award. The company currently has twelve games–all sold separately–prepared for download. These games are played with physical elements such as dice, blocks, maps, and more yet the tablet senses the objects and reacts to them accordingly via LED lights and more.

John Shi, the CEO of Beyond Tablet, always enjoyed played board games such as “Settlers of Catan” and “Clue” with his children. As they got older, he noticed that they were spending more and more time on their phones and tablets. After leaving his job at a venture capital firm five years ago, John decided to create something that he could play with his children that would make family time even more fun than screen time. The result was Beyond Screen.

PB1bWhen he was designing Beyond Tablet, John initially had three design criteria: there could be no display screens, family participation was an absolute must, and there needed to be an element of education infused with the gameplay.

“These criteria have driven every decision we have made in creating Beyond Tablet,” John stated and noted that his technology can recognize objects and knows when someone is touching an object. The technology is so innovative that it can even distinguish between soft and hard touches.

“Beyond Tablet is embedded with hundreds of touch sensors that can tell if a touch is soft and gentle or hard and kind of aggressive,” John stated. “Touch sensors and ID recognition are conventional technologies but integrating them to work together has proven to be very challenging since their signals naturally interfere with each other. We designed and then we redesigned, and we eventually created novel applications for many conventional technologies in order to achieve our purpose.”

Once they got the technology working, John and his team sought out twelve of the most amusing and educational games and pre-loaded them into the system.

“The best example is the classical ‘Battleship’ game,” Jon explained. “It is such a great game concept with such cumbersome set up and gameplay experience. We adapted it to become the ‘Battle of Submarines’ with streamlined gameplay, instant interactivity and dramatically sound and light effects.”

As per the interactive pieces, once an object is sensed by Beyond Tablet, its ID is recognized through a radio frequency ID chip that is embedded inside the object. Hence, Beyond Tablet can recognize any type of physical token as long as it has an embedded ID chip.

PB3bGiven the innovative nature of the technology, the number of unique ID chips is practically infinite and Beyond Tablet is actively working on the completion of their next batch of games which will feature more music games as well as games that aim to help gives become more creative, reflective, and compassionate.

“We are creating games that make music accessible, fun, and enlightening as well as games that enable children and grownups alike to easily create a piece of music that they can enjoy and share with family and friends,” John explained. “We are also creating a game that helps children understand and appreciate different emotions in different situations.”

John Shi is proud to note that playing Beyond Tablet with his son has proven to be tremendously rewarding and he often finds himself making decisions based on his perceptions about how his son would react to certain game styles and elements. Ultimately, John is hopeful that Beyond Tablet will evolve into an edutainment platform that assess and tracks the many areas of children’s brain development.

“I have always been fascinated by the human brain, and been reading voraciously about children’s brain development,” he said. “We are seeking partnerships from academia to either prove or disapprove our hypothesis. We are also extracting gameplay data, and building mathematical models to seek correlations between gameplay behavior and developmental stage along the ‘ten intelligences’ which we believe should be comparatively and statistically meaningful, even though they may lack the scientific vigor of an IQ tests administered by professionals.” Essentially, the people at Beyond Tablet are working towards a future scenario when children play to learn in their most natural and intuitive physical environment free of screens as well as capturing gameplay data that will provide insight into children’s brain development.

Within the next decade, John Shi is hopeful that Beyond Tablet will be a household name that enables children to better understand and interact with other people in the real world.
“We are also developing a new product that I believe to be even more exciting than Beyond Tablet but I can’t say exactly what it is yet,” John confessed. “I will say that we are very hopeful about the future of Beyond Screen.”

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Meagan Meehan

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Examiner and AXS. She is also a stop motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a Bachelors in English Literature and a Masters of Communication. She is an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
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