Finding the sweet spot: Innovating in the intersection between humans and technology


As part of Featured Innovators - a series of interviews with some of the most exciting minds from the global trend community - we caught up with Donald Coolidge, the CEO of Elemental Path. The company are behind CogniToys, the internet-connected smart toys which interactively engage and grow with children.

The innovation featured in our 5 Trends for 2016 Global Trend Briefing as part of our BENEFICIAL INTELLIGENCE trend – detailing how rising numbers of consumers expect brands to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to develop truly smart products and services.

Donald Coolidge, Elemental Path's CEO

What are some personal tips you can share with us when it comes to spotting trends?

The key to spotting trends is listening, then sifting through what you hear and figuring out what patterns emerge. For us, capitalizing on the tech toy trend happened naturally. We constantly heard about or met parents who were concerned their kids were spending too much time staring at screens, but were worried about the ramifications of sheltering them from technology all together. They wanted something that struck a middle ground… and that’s how CogniToys came to be!

Where do you usually look for trends?  

The intersection between consumers and technology. I am always looking at the different ways people are using new technology and listening to the things they say they wish their technology could do (but can’t).

What are the globally-impacting trends you’ve found impossible to ignore over the last year or so?

Products or technology that would’ve been a moonshot a decade ago are now not only feasible, but close to market-ready or in market. And speaking of moonshots, there is an unprecedented global commitment to innovation and change. People want to know what they can do to drive technology forward… it’s why Kickstarter has been such a huge part of our story. We had thousands of people from over 50 countries worldwide rally together to support our Dino… in years past, this type of collaboration wouldn’t have been possible.

CogniToys in action

We’ve seen what you’re doing in this area today, how do you plan to adapt your strategy for the the medium to long run?

The concept behind CogniToys stems from a simple truth: kids learn new things every day and as technology advances, parents expect toys that can do the same. CogniToys meet that growing expectation by providing weekly content updates based on anonymized usage metrics as well as feedback we receive directly from our customers. This practice ensures our product stays relevant to those that matter most: kids.

We’ve had parents tell us that Dinos telling bedtime stories help their kids sleep, meditations keep their kids feeling relaxed, and so many more amazing stories.

You’re featured in our briefing covering BENEFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Why do you feel that this shift is occurring (and that professionals should have it on their radar) today?

People want what they create to be useful and helpful now that technology. Specifically, I think that if you are building something, it should incorporate some sort of social good. A lot of my professional career has involved service including the Marine Corps, non-profits and now building a technology that has the ability to revolutionize the way kids learn and play worldwide.

What was your favorite recent innovation and why?

CogniToys, but I may be a bit biased . I love the Amazon Echo (and have my very own). It’s a great product that combines personality and usefulness… two things I look for in any sort of “personal assistant” technology.

Our free Trend Briefings are published monthly, featuring the latest innovation opportunities and most exciting new trends set to shape the next 12 months (and beyond!). To get them sent straight to your inbox as they are released, you can subscribe here