AR/VR joins robotics and RC as increasingly common cutting edge tech finding their way into this year’s not-necessarily-for-kids play things on display at the 117th annual Toy Fair taking place this week at New York’s Javits Center. Here are the top dozen
tech toys we discovered on the fair’s nearly eight football fields of show floor.
Abacus Professor Maxwell VR Kits ($49.99, June)
VR has been added to Professor Maxwell’s previous AR-only 4D mixed reality learning kits. Each new 5D VR kit consists of a book with AR features – holding a smartphone over photos and illustrations from the books produces the Einstein-like Professor Maxwell to AR explain and guide the user though what’s happening. Slipping the phone into the goggles produces VR demonstrations. In June there’ll be four new VR-enabled kits: VR Magic, VR Science, VR Universe and VR Junior Chef, and in September VR Safari and VR Atlas will be added.
Blok Party PlayTable ($199, now available for pre-order)
Consumers can replace a closet full of old cardboard boxed board games with this 24-inch, 1920 x 1080 IR touchscreen, RFID-enabled LCD digital board game. There’ll be a package of classic board games included with the board when it becomes available in the fall, with additional games priced between $15-$30, or unlimited via a projected $125/year subscription. PlayTable will react to dice, cards and other game pieces placed on it, and up to 12 players can play at the same time, depending on the game. The board, available with a black or white base, weighs 15 pounds and is AC-powered.
Franklin Pro Hoops LED ($29.99)
Stop tossing crumpled up paper into available garbage cans to score fantasy two-pointers. Instead, hang this blue-lit shatterproof clear backboard atop any door. Each time the included bounceable 6-inch PVC ball swishes through the hoop, the border lights flash blue, arena-like synth music plays, and two points register on the scoreboard. Hang on after a dunk thanks to the hoop’s double spring-loaded hinges. The LED lights, et al, operate via 3 AAA batteries for up to 30 hours, the board shuts itself off after 20 minutes of inactivity, and the scoring sound effects can be defeated so parents or office mates won’t be disturbed by bank shots.
Geek Club Smart Bots Sets ($109)
For young, budding electrical or hardware engineers are these construction bot kits. Each of the three Geek Club kits – Nano Smart Bots, Voodoo Smart Bots, Baby Robots Bots – include USB-powered soldering irons and drills, safety goggles, 10 circuit boards, and metal form templates that allow mechanically-inclined youngsters to build seven different “robots,” essentially objects that light up. Powered by common button batteries (not included), many of the built bots will move via lights shined at them. But the joy is the building, not necessary the play of the completed bot.
My Audio Life Stories ($34.99)
Absent parents can still read to their kids – or even have their kids read to them – with this book/app/Bluetooth speaker combo. Those little character “pet” bobbles at the bottom of the picture are actually the aforementioned Bluetooth speakers. Calling in remotely, a parent can read the accompanying My Audio Life story book via the app while the child at home reads along. Or, a parent can record the audio of the book for the child to follow along, or the child can record the book for the parent to marvel to. There are four books available now, with five more due in the next few months including three featuring Sesame Street characters and themes.
Shifu Tacto ($59.99, June)
Rather than having to buy a separate display to play AR board games, this planned mixed-reality platform employs a consumer’s existing tablet suspended between two trays filled with physical game figurines or pieces. The Shifu Tacto app will initially include four games, growing to 10 by the end of the year, including classics such as chess and Snakes & Ladders as well as original activities, such as the chemistry learning game pictured. Action is accomplished via touch combined with moving or placing the game pieces on the appropriate spot on the tablet surface.
Tori Board ($129.99)
Tori’s AR platform uses a board that produces a magnetic field that reacts to physical game pieces – a plane, a wand and a catapult – into which a bar magnet is inserted, along with a consumer’s tablet. A game piece moved on or above the board’s magnetic field in any direction produces parallel movement of the virtual version of the object on-screen. The board runs for six hours via a rechargeable battery, and an included “creative books” includes push-out cardboard templates to create customized game pieces into which the bar magnet can be inserted.
Smacircle S1 E-Bike ($1,399.99)
An e-bike can only be ridden so far – but what happens when you reach your destination or you run out of juice? Smacircle answers that question with this S1 foldable carbon fiber e-bike that weighs 22 pounds that fits in a backpack – your own, or, later this year, into a specially designed backpack ($99.99) or wheeled trolley bag ($199.99). Unfolded, the S1 will speed along at 12-14 MPH for an hour – around 15 miles total. It’ll carry a rider weighing up to around 240 pounds and its battery, located in the seat, requires 3.5 hours to recharge. There are three vertically-mounted LED headlights in front and a rear red brake LED.
Wow! Stuff Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak, Junior Edition ($34.99)
For some reason, Wow! Stuff has made only¬ a teen-adult version of this clever cape+app combo, but has corrected this oversight with this smaller, 6-8-year-old kid-friendlier version. The inside lining of the cloak is green-screen green so, when worn and viewed through the app, its wearer magically disappears. Youngsters can then capture still photos or video of their invisible adventures.
Wristworld AR ($7.99/$29.99 for 4-pack)
Developed by 10 middle schoolers in Norman, Oklahoma, for other kids, scanning the code on one of these 80’s-style slap wrist band produces AR characters within the Wristworld app to augmentedly explore lands, fight enemies, collect objects and abilities, and solve puzzles. Available as single slap bands or in groups of four (red, yellow, white, blue), each band presents a different level, but can be enjoyed in any sequence.
Zing Go Go Bird ($39.99, fall)
Drones are functional but hardly fun. Zing has created a fun parrot-like drone-like version in red, blue or yellow, complete with flapping wings. Each RC-controlled Go Go Bird includes two rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and a separate charger so you can fly your bird almost continually up to 100 feet away for 10-15 minutes per battery charge. Weighing only a feather-like 16 grams with battery, the 11.02 x 7.48-inch Go Go Birds can crash and flop without harm.