Selfie Journals & Viper Drones: Tech Toys Grow Up To Keep Up
Toy sophistication attempting to pace with the abilities of their users
Welcome to the future, where kids aren’t happy with toys that just … well, sit there. Now playthings must move on the ground and through the air and even speak of their own or user-programmed accord.
This year’s Toy Fair at the New York Javits Center was filled with increasingly sophisticated — and often animated — digital doodads, some of which merely entertain, some that teach children how to survive and even thrive in our increasingly technological world, or some that just scare the cat. Click through to see what’s coming.
Related: Toy Fair 2018: ‘Alexa, Play With Me’
The first Alexa-integrated board is part of an Amazon-Techstar Alexa Accelerator incubator project.
Just as at CES, a growing number of voice-enabled toys appeared seemingly out of nowhere on the show floor. Many of these mostly Amazon Alexa-enabled gadgets were robots, such as UBTech’s Lynx ($799). Lynx performs as an animated Echo, but asking to Lynx enables additional robot-specific functions, as well as access to additional robotic functions access by asking Alexa to speak to Lynx.
Reality TV confession cam interviews meets the daily diary with this VTech A/V diary. Instead of a key, the colorful journal opens via facial recognition only. Inside is a color tablet screen with rear and front-facing cameras and an onscreen keyboard so little girls can record their most intimate video, audio or text thoughts. There also are activity buttons for doctoring photos ala Instagram, Sudoku, a music player, even a virtual pet. The journal can store 750 daily entries — two year’s worth of insights.
The Iron Man helmet positions a smartphone as a screen to overlay game play over a real environment using user-positioned AR markers, a gauntlet/hand controller and an “Infinity Stone.”
Kids 8 and older can DIY their own app-controllable RC robotic dinosaur with these new kits. Inside the Indoraptor or Blue kit box is a robotic chassis, over which a metallic-looking skin — actually the company’s special Kami paper — can be origamically-folded. Youngers can drag-and-drop coded movements in the app to create their own pitched dino battles.
In a few short years, smart homes will be all homes, and Fisher-Price’s Smart Home Learning Center can prepare young’uns from 6 to 36 months old for this automated eventuality. A sensor can detect the approach of the company’s companion smart car ($49.99, fall) and turn on the house’s lights, turn on music, and even vocalize a greeting. Inside, theirs is a play thermostat, light switches and sound effects that can be operated manually or from a toy hub.
For parents concerned about their child’s cellphone usage, this KidsConnect phone will be soothing – once the kid stops protesting that it’s not a “real” smartphone. This 4G LTE device can call or receive calls or texts
only from 18 numbers stored inside, including three speed-dial buttons on the front, all programmed by the parent. When the SOS button is hard-pressed for three seconds, calls and texts are silently sent to all 18 numbers. There’s no camera, and only the parent can turn the phone off. Parents can not only locate wayward kids on the iOS or Android app, but can surreptitiously listen in to whatever may be happening around their offspring. KidsConnect calling and text plans run from $13 to $45 a month, operating on T-Mobile’s network.
These are smaller, child-ready version of the company’s rubbery and colorful mobile goggles.
The speech-enabled, AI-powered and astronaut-like robotic toy is equipped with an array of smart LEDs, an accelerometer and ambient light sensor, and capacitive touch sensors.
Representing the myriad hand-controllable drones on the Toy Fair show floor is Scout, one for four new models from Sky Viper priced between $19.99 and $99.99. Scout is equipped with surface scanning, optical ground tracking and positional hold capabilities, so not can you lead it with your hand, but it’ll also follow you, automatically return to its starting point, or travel to specific map coordinates. All four new models fly for 14 minutes, but only the top-line Journey Pro Video includes a camera.
Hot Wheels has turned its popular race car-meets-soccer PS4 video game into physical reality with the first of two kits. Included are two 1/24-scale cars that’ll run for 15 minutes each, IR scoring and scoreboards over each goal, a field matt, nine-piece fencing and a two-car charger, all controllable via a free iOS or Android app by 8- to 12-year-olds. The company plans a larger play area version for next year.
Instead of your kids simply forging inanimate goofy objects with this pen-based 3D printer kit, they can now add a HexBug engine to make their globular creation shake, rattle and roll to entertain. This 3Doodler Start kit includes 48 different colored 3D printing filaments, two molds and three HexBug “insectoid” motors. There’ll also be a specific Robot Dinosaur kit with one motor ($24.95, April).
Also increasing prevalent in new toys are AR and VR capabilities. This AR 8-block kit from Chilean company PleIQ not only display augmented animations within the iOS or Android app to teach the alphabet, numbers and symbols, but enable combination actions, such as a sequence of numbered blocks to add numbers, or interactions, such as actually being able to play the virtual xylophone from the “X” block.