An educational augmented reality toy kids actually seem to like

In a landscape of novelty toys, this AR company has impressive reach.

A technology startup focusing on AR experiences for kids just landed $7 million in Series A funding. PlayShifu, founded by two dads, has won awards for its technology while gathering an impressive early user base for its flagship product, a toy globe onto which children can project AR exploration experiences using a tablet. 

The company's early success is especially notable given how difficult the children's technology market is to penetrate. Large toy companies have moved aggressively into the kids tech space, elbowing out many promising startups. Parents and educators inundated with options are wary of exposing their kids to untested technologies, many of which have dubious educational value.

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The globe, called the Shifu Orboot, has a US user base of more than 100,000 kids, according to the company, with high engagement among 4-8-year-olds. What's caught investors' eyes, however, is the consistency of engagement reported with the toy. While most children's apps retain less than 10 percent of children users after the first month, the company says its tracking shows that more than 40 percent of kids continued using Orboot in the second month of ownership.

"In other words, the amount of time spent on the app, thanks in large part to the breadth and depth of learning, has resulted in an impressive frequency of play," according to the company, "and month-after-month retention equal to 4-5 times that of kids-app category benchmarks."

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PlayShifu has also been smart in how it's appealed to educational partners. Teachers from 28 states have experimented with PlayShifu's products and apps. This year, the company says it will enter 2000 schools. 

"We are experiencing incredible demand from international markets across the world, purely due to the reason that our innovative products make early learning agnostic to markets and languages. Our products make an instant connection with kids and parents alike," added Dinesh Advani, Co-Founder, and COO. "We now have the tools at our disposal to execute against an even more impactful retail strategy and presence, while we continue to strengthen our position as the segment leader and disruptor in the ed-tech space."

Founded in 2016, PlayShifu has offices in Bay Area and Bangalore, India. The company, which also makes a block-based AR game called Plugo, is seeking to expand its technology portfolio. To date, PlayShifu has raised $8.5 million.