Hands-on: Ubooly plush toy and interactive app for mobile devices review

The 2014 NYC Toy Fair is brimming with products born through crowdfunding website Kickstarter, and Ubooly, a plush bear that works with an accompanying mobile app, is one of the cutest examples.

Ubooly received more than $28,000 in funding on Kickstarter in April 2012, and it later received $1.5 million in seed funding. Originally launch with support for iOS, Ubooly, a smart stuffed animal, currently works for both iOS and Android. Just download the free Ubooly app, then insert an iPad mini or Nexus 7 into the memory foam-filled plushy.

Ubooly, which looks like it is missing a face, comes in either neon pink, orange, or green. Once you insert a mobile device into the top of its head, with Ubooly's app opened, Ubooly will immediately come to life. Your child can customise Ubooly's face, throw Ubooly, cuddle with Ubooly, and interact with Ubooly. And it'll actually talk and listen with your child. 

Ubooly will learn names, birthday, and interests, for instance. Children can ask Ubooly to read them a story from an actual compatible book or play music, etc. Parents can also customise Ubooly with educational “Play Packs” that help kids learn their ABCs, basic math, foreign languages, and more. You can buy three lessons via in-app purchases for $9.

There's a big Ubooly for tablets and a smaller Ubooly for smartphones, but both are thick and soft, meaning they can be thrown or dropped without fear of a damaged device. During a brief demo at Ubooly's booth, Pocket-lint saw Ubooly bounced on the floor and tossed in the air. And the device inside came out unscathed.

Apart from the safety factor though, we really liked how children could both learn from and engage with Ubooly. It's like the modern dayTeddy Ruxpin (sans cassette tape deck and creepy talking bear face). The small Ubooly is $29.99 through its website, while the large Ubooly is $59.99.