This location-aware teddy bear reads RFID tags and plays different customizable sounds depending on where it is or what object it’s near — other toys, books, CDs, anything.

Charlie’s Bear helps children explore the world around them by producing sounds in reaction to other toys or objects nearby. It can play any sound files you upload to the memory card inside — for example, the voice of the bear, a noise that another toy might make, a theme song prompted by a toy from a TV show, or a reading of a favorite book.

I created the toy for my nephew Charlie, who was born with cerebral palsy. Charlie’s vision is poor, but he’s very tactile and auditory. This toy takes advantage of his excellent hearing and the joy he derives from music and sounds. And for all young children, this toy is an easy and safe way for them to pick their own music. Just bring a CD case (or other tagged item) near, and the bear plays it — no complicated CD player or computer.

At the heart of Charlie’s Bear, an Arduino microcontroller uses a radio frequency identification (RFID) reader to recognize nearby RFID tags, then uses an audio shield attachment to play corresponding audio files stored on an SD memory card. The SD card stores about a minute of audio content per megabyte, so a cheapo 4GB card will hold more than 60 hours.