Spielwarenmesse: Why tech toys are here to stay

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14. November 2016 / Trends

Why tech toys are here to stay

from Reyne Rice

Besides being fun, and incredibly engaging, tech toys and games have evolved into amazing new categories of play that offer thrills and tap into new skills for kids and adults. These new segments include robots and RC drones, electronic pets, 3D printing, virtual play, and also incorporate new technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and even artificial intelligence.

The most exciting premise of these new technological toys is that they encourage kids to be active creators of their play experiences. By inspiring kids to embrace an active creator playstyle, instead of a passive consumer mindset, we are evolving kids into being vested in the process of building, making, creating and customizing their toys. This has developed a whole generation of kids that take more risks and are becoming more confident “Do-It-Yourself” kids. When kids start to ask “What if?”, then we have got them thinking. Encouraging experimentation and curiosity are important, active life skills.

Here is a review of the top new segments that are emerging, and some of the players that are leading the charge. Get excited, and get in on the fun.  The best way to learn new technology is to place it into the hands of kids you know, and play right alongside them.

Electronic Pets

Spin Master: Zoomer Chimp
Spin Master: Zoomer Chimp
Wowwee: CHiP
Wowwee: CHiP

As kids become more sophisticated and adept at technology, their toy electronic pets have also become more interactive. The CogniToy Dino, is a cloud-based WiFi Connected Toy that allows kids to engage in intelligent conversations. C.H.I.P is an electronic puppy who is trained by their owner to follow a child, to learn tricks and even to play with an object that uses beacon sense smart technology (Wow-Wee).

Spin Master has created a variety of smart technology pets in multiple play iterations.  Their Meccano Meccasaur uses sensors and touch-points that are built into the creature, so that kids just need to activate the touchpoints to get reactions such as roars, speech, attack mode and other playful sounds.  Hatchimals, (Spin Master) offer a new form of nurturing play, to evolve new characters that actually hatch from their inner eggshell over time, to become unique, functioning, interactive pets. Zoomer Chimp is a playful chimpanzee that uses smart technology to sense its owner and to respond to tricks and commands.

Robot Toys

Sphero: BB-8 Star Wars Droid
Sphero: BB-8 Star Wars Droid

So many new iterations here engage kids to teach and control their robots. Coji Emoticon Robot by Wow-Wee uses emoticons as the social and emotional intelligence programming language. Dash and Dot (Wonder Workshop) teach coding to preschoolers and older kids can create more sophisticated programs, such as devising obstacle courses, or building with accessories, to create more complicated stunts and actions. OzoBot mini one-inch robots and the Sphero BB-8 robot have both encouraged character-based play with coding sequences that surprise and delight kids as users.

RC Drones

DJI: Phantom 4
DJI: Phantom 4

From the smallest portable Pocket Drone, by Odyssey Toys that folds as flat as a credit card to the most sophisticated DJI Phantom 4K camera flying drones, there is a wide spectrum of flying RC drones to choose from. Horizon Hobby has launched their First-Person-View (FPV) drones to experience the thrill of racing, as seen through the pilot’s eyeglasses. Other key stand-out manufacturers in this segment include SilverLit, SkyRocket Toys, Revell, Carrera, and AuldeyToys.

Virtual Play

1. Augmented Reality

More companies are using augmented reality technology in ways that are more elegant and playful, for the end user. AirHogs Connect: Mission Drone Augmented Reality RC, by Spin Master incorporates drone technology, and uses an augmented reality controller as a viewing device. The built-in play pattern is all about initiating and completing missions, while actively playing, and flying your drone.

Reach Robotics MekaMon battling Robots, Anki OverDrive Racing vehicles, and WowWee R.E.V vehicles and R.E.V Air drones all encourage kids to drive their air and land vehicles, with dexterity and purpose.

R.E.V. : Robotic Enhanced Vehicles by WowWee Extended Version

2. Electronic Learning

With a continued emphasis on STEM Learning, more manufacturers are adding coding, programming and logic-building into toys and games. The Fisher-Price Think N Learn Code-A-Pillar teaches the basics of computer programming to preschoolers  who add segments to a caterpillar-shaped toy. Each connectable segment represents a coded command which the caterpillar will execute in sequence, such as turning, moving forward or reverse, adding sound components and more. 

Vtech Go Go Smart toys, little Bits Gadgets & Gizmos, Sphero S.P.R.K Edition, Kosmos Verlag Kosmo Bits (CodeMaker in the USA), Happy Atoms by Thames & Kosmos, LEGO Education WeDo Version 2, HexBugs VEX Robotics, Marbotics alphabet blocks, Tiggly Learning, Edwin the Duck (pi labs), and OSMO (Tangible Play), are all new manufacturers who are joining this STEM to STREAM (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) movement.

Think & Learn Code-a-pillar™ | Fisher-Price

3. Virtual Reality

Google and Mattel partnered to re-invent the ViewMaster adding new 360 degree viewing capabilities to an old classic. Mel-Science has developed Science Kits that incorporate VR viewing in the final experiment stages, to make the learning even more relevant. Zing Toys has added a Green Screen Stage to their StikBots products, to encourage kids to create and share their digital movies and scenes, via an immensely popular social media gallery website.

View-Master® Virtual Reality 360° Experience

3D Printing

3D ImagiPen
3D ImagiPen

These products bring concepts to life in a very tangible way, using 3D and 4D modeling. Whether kids use a 3D printer to create their toys, or a 3D doodling pen, to build products with filaments in the air, the excitement is in building something unique in the colors and combinations of the kids choosing.

Some examples include: Mattel ThingMaker 3D printer, XYZ Printing Robot Building Systems, 3D Magic ImagiPen (Tech 4 Kids), The original 3D Doodler Pen, and their newer 3D doodler Starter Kit, SkyRocket Toys 3D Chocolate Pen, and Redwood Ventures 3D Drawing Pen.

Visit the new activity area Tech2Play at Spielwarenmesse® 2017, housed in hall 4A. This showcase exhibit for new technology products will span across a wide spectrum of toy categories, and new applications for virtual play in toys and games. Get to know Tech2Play now!


Author of this article:

Reyne Rice, Toy Expert, New York

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