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'Idol' winner blends virtual and physical play with 'Gameball'

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Tossing the ‘Gameball’ are Kevin Langdon, Play Impossible Corp. chief technology officer, and company founder Brian Monnin (right). Play Impossible won the 13th annual Venture Idol competition Thursday night. (Photo/Melinda Rizzo)
Tossing the ‘Gameball’ are Kevin Langdon, Play Impossible Corp. chief technology officer, and company founder Brian Monnin (right). Play Impossible won the 13th annual Venture Idol competition Thursday night. (Photo/Melinda Rizzo)

The 13th annual Venture Idol competition winner will use its share of $15,000 to create the next generation of “smart” toys for children.

Play Impossible Corp., a smart-toy startup in Lewisburg, Union County, won Thursday night’s Venture Idol hosted by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania on the Lehigh University campus in Bethlehem.

Play Impossible plans to launch “Gameball” in 2017. Gameball is a redesigned bouncy ball and app with digital software to blend virtual gaming and physical play.

Play Impossible beat two other finalists: second-place Signallamp Health of Scranton and third-place Howell Benefit Technologies LLC of Wilkes-Barre.

“How can we bring the best of digital with the best of physical?” said Brian Monnin, founder of Play Impossible.

Monnin said he’ll use the money for engineers to further develop and distribute the new product. Gameball would retail for about $99. In-app add-ons would cost $1.99 to $3.99.

He said players could create endless variations of play, either against themselves or other players.

“Now kids play video games and they never break a sweat,” Monnin said.

Monnin said Play Impossible aims to reinvent the ball as a way to get kids off the couch and outside.

“Look at Pokemon Go. That got 30 year-olds outside, and we can learn from what they did,” he said.

The smart-ball technology could eventually be expanded for use in basketballs, footballs or Frisbee discs.

Monnin estimated more than $300 million had been invested in connected toy startups the past five years. Gameball would be marketed to youngsters from 5 to 15, though anyone could use it.

A cross between American Idol and Shark Tank, Venture Idol gives contestants a chance to pitch products before a panel of judges in hopes of winning funding.

Winners were selected by audience vote.

Earlier in the day, eight companies vied for a spot in the evening’s final three.

 

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