February 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 2
Robots Take Over Toy Fair
Mechanical Men and Green Toys Were Everywhere
This year's Toy Fair teemed with robots and other high-tech gadgetry that yanked the World of Tomorrow into today's playthings. With i-SOBOTS and Elmo Lives and Mattel's D-Rex crawling around their playroom floors, kids won't need imaginary friends anymore. They'll just build a pal with a kit.
And for those who prefer robots that look more like vacuum cleaner canisters, there's the new Swinxs, which translates traditional backyard play into high-tech gadgetry that shouts out commands to color-coded kids wearing wristbands with sensors. Kick the Can takes on new meaning when the can talks back.
(You can see i-SOBOTS and Swinxs in TDmonthly's videos, uploading from now until the beginning of March.)
GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
Also ubiquitous at the show were eco-friendly products and those that loudly trumpeted their "lead-free" status. These super low-tech toys were on specialty retailers' minds as they trolled the floors looking for items that could lure worried parents to their stores, and stood in stark contrast to the otherwise gadgety fair.
Uberstix managed to bridge both worlds by offering a variety of building kits: some create those coveted robots while others encourage kids to recycle by forcing them to find discarded coffee cups and paper clips to make pirate ships and drag racers.
The battle for virtual playground space rages on, with new companies scrambling to create the next Webkinz. At least two are headed for the finish line with online racing-cars — 10VOX's Tracksters and the driver's license-based Revnjenz. Ty, perhaps a bit disappointed in the less-than-stellar Ty Girlz, has bumped its Beanie Babies into the 21st Century with the Beanie Babies 2.0 plush and virtual characters.
Ganz finally made it to Toy Fair, too, though its Webkinz were found in an out-of-the-way corner at the back of the top floor.
WATCH THE FAIR YOURSELF
Need to see the Fair first hand but don't know how to time travel? Watch more than 120 videos* of the best toys and see for yourself.
Then look back at our Toy Fair Highlights to read more about the Top Trends of the show, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association picks, and top-10 lists for the following categories:
Revnjenz® are fast, sleek, and sporty street racers that come to life once you enter your "Secret Code" located on your Revnjenz® drivers license. This "real life" driver's license is an authentic collector's edition. Once in Revnjenz®, you will also receive a title for your own vehicle showing proof of ownership. InRevnjenz®, you can visit many fun places. You can go to the Arcade, Bank, the "Z" Academy, Police Station, Raceway, Gas Station, Z Dealership, Performance Garage, Movie Theater, Car Wash, and "Youth Friendly" Chat lot. In these places you can race and play games to earn BoostBucks® to purchase upgrades and personalize your car along with its very own precious garage you store it in. You will be able to customize your car with items such as turbos, superchargers, spoilers, body kits, wheels, special lighting such as neon kits, cool lifts for your car, and even plasma TVs' for your garage. Come Race and Play Now!
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 16440 (added 12/5/2007)
Developed by Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technologies, this car runs on hydrogen power supplied from a charger unit that stores the water (fuel). It comes with a handset for controls and offers five to seven minutes of playtime per two-minute (full) charge. Whereas similar models, such as the H-Racer, were more for education and demonstration purposes, this model is designed for play, according to Mark Bawtree of Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies. Launch date: September 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17635 (added 2/19/2008)
VEX Robotics Design System (Starter Kit) by INNOVATION FIRST LABS, INC.
Other products from INNOVATION FIRST LABS, INC.
The VEX Robotics Design System is an open-ended robotics platform that includes all the parts and accessories young inventors and hobbyists need to design radio-controlled and programmable robots. VEX allows users to explore the possibilities of science, technology, engineering and math in an entirely new way, making VEX an ideal tool for teaching robotics the in the classroom. (Requires Programming Kit)
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17477 (added 2/12/2008)
The orangutan’s animal-like animation – traversing over ropes, hand-over-hand like a real monkey – is enabled using only solar energy. Only 15 parts need to be assembled. The unit will motivate students to learn about micro-robotics and solar energy. It will also teach students to follow precise visual diagrams.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 16880 (added 1/2/2008)
This fierce cuddler has an online counterpart that lets kids access a virtual world full of games, contests and rewards.
— During TDmonthly's Homeschool Roundtable review of Kookeys, 8-year-old Joe Ledford expressed excitement for the online entertainment the plush animals afford. "Can I play the arcade games?" he asked his mom. "They are really fun!"
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 15589 (added 10/3/2007)
A little dreamy, very sweet and loves a good laugh. He even makes fun of himself – often saying he may be all wet, but he is certainly no drip. Of course, as an Idbid, he also has a serious side. Waverly is particularly – and deeply – concerned about protecting the Earth’s water resources and keeping them clean.
AREA OF EXPERTISE: Oceans, seas, rivers and lakes
INTERESTING FACT: A fan of 60s music who is known to turn up the volume a little too high
Waverly is a huggable, soft, plush toy handcrafted in Egypt with 100% Egyptian cotton. No two are alike - just like children!.
Launch date: February 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 16199 (added 11/19/2007)
These new construction/craft kits from Überstix take the company's commitment to recycling one step further. To complete the working ÜBERSTIX PirateShip™ or ÜBERFO™, one must collect a list of recyclable components from an included Scavenger List. Building the PirateShip, for example, requires ice cream sticks, a plastic water bottle, cups, a rubber band, a plastic bag for the sail, and tape. The ÜBERFO is easy to build and fun to fly.
— "The Scavenger Kits reward children in two ways," Uberstix Founder Dane Scarborough told TDmonthly. "First, they get to build a working model they can actually play with. Second, they can build bigger objects because they add to them with materials they find."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 16612 (added 12/17/2007)
The pony measures 13” x 7” x 12-3/4” and consists of three motors, 19 points of articulation, four touch sensors, light and motion sensors, proximity sensors and an infrared sensor. Its front and rear legs, tail, head and ears all move. The pony comes with a wireless transmitter, magnetic ball and bone. Launch date: Fall 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 15542 (added 10/2/2007)
This cute little duck comes with a code that allows its owner to access Webkinz World online.
— Over 26 percent of 45 retailers surveyed by TDmonthly in early 2008 named Webkinz as their hottest selling item.
— “Webkinz by Ganz — they still sell out every shipment,” Melodie Ingwersen, owner of Creativity for Kids in Columbia, S.C., told TDmonthly in early 2008.
— “[They] have been really hot for the last couple of years,” she added.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17573 (added 2/18/2008)
Suitable for ages 18 months and up, Elmo Live sings, dances and speaks. It can even be programmed to repeat a child’s name. “For the first time ever, Elmo seems to actually be speaking as his mouth opens and closes just like he does on 'Sesame Street,' while he gestures with his arms, sits, stands and even crosses his legs ... all the while telling stories and jokes, singing songs and playing games,” Gina Sirard, vice president of marketing for Fisher-Price Friends, told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17778 (added 2/27/2008)
The robotic dinosaur appears and behaves realistically. The toy walks, chomps his jaw, bares his teeth, wags his tail, roars and more in response to stimulation and what he wants. The D-Rex responds to touch, voices and more. “D-Rex combines robotics, proprietary software and reptilian skin to create a life-like appearance and behavior,” Michele Sturdivant, director of PR and communications for Mattel Brands, told TDmonthly. Launch date: Fall 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17777 (added 2/27/2008)
With strong plastic pieces and robotic capabilities, this build-a-robot kit requires only a Philips head screwdriver and creativity for construction. Individuals can build a humanoid, a puppy, a dinosaur, an excavator and other machines, all of which utilize a sensor module that can sense distance and detect sound, Dynamixel DC servo modules that allow for a broad range of motion, and a CM-5 central controller module. The included computer programs can be used to create robot behaviors and movements. Three kits — Beginner, Comprehensive and Expert — are available.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17772 (added 2/27/2008)
Created to facilitate active play with family and friends both indoors and out, this game console speaks, explains how to play games, and cheers on participants. Players interact with the console though XS tags — colorful, microchip-embedded wristbands that begin games and measure player performance. Individuals can download free games onto the console from the Swinxs website. Launch date: 2008.
— One TDmonthly editor was hesitant to include this product in a Toy Fair 2008 top-10 list on the basis that it takes money and electronics to simulate the way children have been playing for generations, and she believes kids will easily tire of it. TDmonthly included it, however, for its encouragement of group play, its novel approach to active gaming, its sleek design and the ability customers have to download additional games from the company's website.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17770 (added 2/27/2008)
This full-color, electronic handheld game doubles as a pedometer, and each step a child takes grants him one point for game play in the three-dimensional ME2 world online. Kids create their own avatar (more than 1 million designs available through combinations of various features) and can interact with other players online, where they might, for example, challenge others to a race. Six colors are available. Launch date: August 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17768 (added 2/27/2008)
Equipped with a solar panel on top, this wooden vehicle reinforces eco-friendly ideas through play. It features wide doors for easy placement of furniture and dolls inside, and includes space that can function as a kitchen, bedroom and living room. Launch date: Early 2008.
THIS PRODUCT IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17751 (added 2/26/2008)
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Writer's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ... Read more articles by this author
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