TDmonthly Magazine!
January 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 1


HEXBUGs Trio Plays With Technology

Innovation First's Miniature Robots Appeal to All Ages

“HEXBUGs were a runaway success that we had not anticipated.” Joel Carter, Innovation First
This article is a paid advertorial.

If a robot toy were crossed with an insect, what would you get? A HEXBUG! For Innovation First, the result has been a sellout, with demand overwhelming supply in the products’ first year.


“The power of observation is important to succeed,” Joel Carter, vice president of marketing at Innovation First, told TDmonthly Magazine, explaining that the inspiration for HEXBUGs came because of a long line at a robotics trade show. “We saw people waiting to pay big bucks for a bag full of component parts and an instruction sheet on how to build robot bugs that didn’t do much. We knew we could do better cost-wise and come up with a cooler product.”

Getting from the initial idea to actual production took nine months. The company introduced the HEXBUG in spring 2007 and sold more than 1.5 million units by year end.

“HEXBUGs were a runaway success that we had not anticipated,” Joel said.


Innovation First began producing electronics for robots in 1996. Today, the company is an industry leader in hobby, competition and education robotics, as well as a developer of consumer robotics toys. In addition to HEXBUGs, Innovation First produces the Vex Robotics Design System, the top-selling robotics platform in middle and high schools.

Using robotics as learning tools is big in schools, and robotics competitions are extremely popular. In 2008, for example, more than 1,500 U.S. and international student teams competed in the annual FIRST Championship — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — by building and operating their own robots from a kit., co-sponsored by Innovation First, is one resource that exists to connect students, mentors and schools to a variety of engaging, technology-based programs.

“Robots are not solely for play, but also help students learn about science and technology,” Joel told TDmonthly. “They tap into today’s generation that has a high comfort level with computers, as well as the desire to build things and problem-solve in an eloquent way.”


The original HEXBUG, in blue, was introduced through Radio Shack and flew off the shelves at $9.99. “Its appeal comes from its fascinating movements — it’s the gadget factor,” Joel told TDmonthly. And it wasn’t just boys. Girls also wanted them, inspiring the introduction of a hot pink version. “It appeals [to ages] 8 to 80.”

Part of HEXBUGs’ fascination comes from an underlying design goal Joel describes as “guts out.” All the moving parts are visible through the faceted translucent shell, so that people can see the linkages, drives and even circuit boards in action. “Our objective was to have people look at it and say, ‘It’s a little robot that resembles a bug.’ We wanted it to be more fantasy than realistic.”

The original HEXBUG has been followed by the Inchworm and the Crab. Priced at under $20, Joel believes the toys’ strong value-to-price ratio, particularly in the current economy, is another factor in their success. He also attributes strong sales to distinctive packaging and displays designed to be placed beside the register to promote impulse purchasing.

“Kids like small and cool gadgets and are wild for robots,” he said. And Innovation First will keep providing them, indicated Joel, who hinted that new robots will be introduced at Toy Fair 2009.

See the HEXBUGs and other items from Innovation First:

MSRP: $9.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Robotics
General Toys

The micro-robotic HEXBUG is a tiny, obedient insect that features bump-sensor feelers that help it avoid objects in its path. It responds to clapping or other loud noise by backing up or changing direction. The HEXBUG is small enough to fit in the hand and comes in five different body types and colors including pink, blue, green, yellow and orange. Awards: TDmonthly Innovations 2008.
— According to more than 60 reviews on and, this fun, durable toy has been rated 4 out of 5 stars due to its entertaining and educational features. It is portable for any occasion and appropriate for any age. Consumers should be careful though, as they have been known to be flimsy and easily breakable, like real bugs! (09.12.08)
— "Everyone wants one, from adults to kids," Charles Bonner, owner of Heights Toy Center in Little Rock, Ark., told TDmonthly of this best seller in April 2009. "I sell 200 to 250 a month." Three of 44 retailers tagged Hexbugs as an overall best seller in late fall 2009.

— During a September 2010 survey, two of 44 retailers listed Hexbugs as their top-seller for tweens.

ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17476      (added 2/12/2008)

Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: October 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Remote Controlled
General Toys

The HEXBUG Inchworm is the first Micro Robotic Creature in the HEXBUG line to feature a full-function IR remote control. Users drive the Inchworm forward, back, left and right. A and B control bands allow users to control two Inchworms at once or multiple Inchworms on the same band. The product features a unique crawling and pirouette motion around its center pod foot. "This unique HEXBUG Micro Robotic impulse item is offered in a five-pack impulse counter display with five-color variety assortment," Joel Carter, VP of marketing for Innovation First, told TDmonthly. Launch date: October 15, 2008.
— The Inchworm has been a top seller at Pufferbellies in Staunton, Va., for at least a year, according to co-owner Susan Blanton in fall 2009.
— The Hexbug Inchworm is a popular item at the Toy Shop of Concord in Concord, Mass., Owner David Hesel told TDmonthly in late 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20882      (added 10/2/2008)

MSRP: $14.99
Age Range: 8 and up
SKU or Item #: 1241
Launch Date: September 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Toys

Measuring just six centimeters long, each battery operated HEXBUG Crab is loaded with robotic intelligence. The six-legged creature feels its way around while sensing objects in its path and avoiding them. Users interact with the bug by tripping the sound sensor with a hand clap or loud noise, which sends it crawling off in a new direction. Launch date: September 29, 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 21812      (added 12/12/2008)

MSRP: $299.99
Age Range: 14 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Robotics
General Toys

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)

MSRP: $99.99
Age Range: 5 and up
Launch Date: August 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Robotics
General Toys

The VEX Mini is an open-ended robotics platform that includes all the parts and accessories inventors and hobbyists need to design and construct a radio-controlled and programmable robot. VEX Mini incorporates the same fun and challenges of the very successful VEX Robotics Design System, but at half the size and half the price. Launch date: August 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17478      (added 2/12/2008)

MSRP: $199.99
Age Range: 8 and up
SKU or Item #: VRC-KIT-1
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational

VEXplorer is the ideal robot kit for the novice builder and hobbyists. Complete with detailed step-by-step plans, this almost-ready-to-run kit comes with pre-assembled modules making it quick and easy to build. Best of all, your robot is compatible with Innovation First's VEX Motion and Structure parts allowing you to expand and grow your robot.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19818      (added 7/17/2008)

Claudia NewcornWriter's Bio: Claudia Newcorn has been a freelance writer and editor for over 10 years, after having spent more than a decade in marketing and product management. She writes for both businesses and individual clients, crafting copy, content and advertising. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines and specialty publications nationwide ( She is also the author of an award-winning fantasy fiction book, "Crossover," and several published short stories ( Read more articles by this author


Back to TDmonthly's front page

Advertise on TDmonthly

Related Product Archives

Drone Home Game
By PlayMonster LLC
» More Information

Educational Insights Circuit Explorer Rover Beginning Circuits
» More Information

LeapFrog 100 Animals Book
» More Information

Related Articles
·American Girl, Book 12/7/2022
·Children and News 06/08/2022
·Toys in the News 05/23/2022
·Schleich Worlds of Play Capture the Globe
·A Safari Into the Imagination
·Mark-My-Time Encourages Study

Also See
·Bicycle playing cards NFT
·Mattel 10/22/2021: Net Sales of $1,762 million, up 8%
·Michaels Acquired by Apollo
·Spin Master Declares August 11 Global Kinetic Sand Day in Celebration of the Original, Magical Sand
·Spin Master and Feld Entertainment Inc. Expand Partnership With New Five-Year Licensing Agreement fo
·Beetlejuice by Mezco