By Reyne Rice, Trend Hunter, Trend Reporter/Analyst, New York, New York, USA
First posted on the YourToyCom.com blog forum and community website serving the toys, games and childrens’ technology industries, on behalf of the Spielwarenmesse. Spielwarenmesse is the leading and largest International ToyFair in the world, held annually in Nuremberg, Germany in early February.
The rapid advance of technology in our society is paving the way for a new type of play. Thanks to modern technology and devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs as well as computers and video consoles, traditional games can now be linked with the virtual world. The technology and related devices are already so well integrated into our everyday lives that we can hardly imagine a world without them anymore. The younger generation in particular has never known life without smart handheld computer devices and are naturally drawn to the devices that they see their role models, parents, siblings and caregivers using daily.
This is where the TECH TOYS trend comes in, showcasing exciting product combinations that appeal to kids and adults, and teach kids about digital skills, through engaging in interactive play. This play takes on many diverse forms. Here are a few of the sub segments and some examples of products that demonstrate some of the top Tech Toy play scenarios:
• Robots and Robotic Systems: Robotics TXT Discovery Set (FischerTechnic GmbH, Germany) teaches robotics and programming principles to kids ages 10 and older, using ROBO Pro software, WLAN/ Bluetooth activation, touch screens and more. Vex iQ Robotics (Innovation First, USA) has taken their successful robotics series for teenagers, and translated the technology into written curriculum programs for teachers and educators to use with teaching younger kids in middle school and elementary school. Mindstorms EV3 (LEGO, Denmark) offers 5 distinct robotic building models in the starter kit, with 12 additional models available online, designed by Mindstorms’ fans. Zoomer (Spin Master, Canada) offers instructions for training this fully flexible robotic pup to perform tricks and maneuvers.
• Cross Platform or Hybrid Gaming combines physical action figures and video gaming or augmented reality gaming: Skylanders SwapForce (Activision, USA) extends this highly popular brand with characters that have interchangeable halves, allowing swapability between figures to create new characters. 16 new SwapForce swappable characters now can be transformed into over 250 different figures with special powers, offering extended play value. TelePods, (Hasbro) uses the popular Angry Birds or Star Wars mini figures to transport into an augmented reality gaming world, on tablet devices, SWAPPZ, (Swappz Interactive, Canada) also transports popular licensed characters into an augmented reality gaming virtual world with Smurfs, Marvel figures and more. Sphero 2 (Orbotix, USA) is a mobile gaming option that uses an intelligent spherical object that can be programmed and played with, using the over 30 apps developed for activation with a smartdevice controller. Includes augmented reality games, racing, social gaming, water play and more. New for 2014 is the tubular Sphero 2B design that is customizable, programmable, and offers multi player options for even more diversity in play for kids and adults.
• Motion Technology: uses gesture technology , motion sensors and the World of Apps to add extra play value: MiP Robot (Wowwee (Canada)/Jazwares Europe) is a dual wheel balancing dynamo and personal robot friend that comes to life using either gesture motion technology or smartdevice activation. Laser Maze (ThinkFun/ HCM Kinzel GmbH) is the first logic game with a real laser. Uses Laser light technology to beam, bend, and split a laser using mirrors and targets with over 60 unique brain challenges, for kids 8 to 108. KD Interactive brings gesture control technology to kids’ tablets, with the new Kurio Motion technology (KD Interactive, France/ TechnoSource in USA).
• Coding and Computer Science and Science, Robot Turtles Game (Thinkfun) introduces basic coding concepts to preschoolers in a board game, for children as young as four years. Human Body Atlas (Imaginarium) offers 3D science with a game board, physical play pieces and an app that brings the science to life. littleBits (littleBits, USA ) offers physical electronic programming blocks, that when linked together, initiate sequenced, interactive circuitry play. Encourages combining real objects with electronics to bring them to life. Basic, Premium and Deluxe Exploration Kits available.
• Tablets and Kids devices: Kurio Phone (KD Interactive, France/ TechnoSource in USA) launched a kids full feature Android mobile phone for children as young as 8 years, with superior parental controls, including geo fencing, emergency blocking, time settings, and much more. ClemPad (Clementoni, Italy) is a new kids Android based tablet computer with capacitive touch screen, WiFi access, multiple educational games and strong parental controls. InnoTab 3S tablet (VTech, Hong Kong) offers a full feature, parental controlled WiFi tablet with a unique KidConnect feature, allowing preschool children, ages 3 and up, to safely send and receive text and icon messages with their parents.
• App inspired or App activated toys: In the TREND BLOG: Mini is King in the TrendGallery 2014 (posted Feb 3. 2014), I described many sophisticated mini vehicles that can be controlled via smartdevices. These include mini planes, mini drones, mini SUV’s and also mini HD cameras for filming. See that blog for more detailed information on those products.
• This App category is vast and expands daily. In fact, at last count, over 47,000 apps were targeted for kids, overall, just on the iTunes store. Add to that the tens of thousands of apps designed for Android devices and available through Amazon or Google Play. It is mindboggling. Some apps interact with devices for control, and others are merely games with educational or entertainment content that are touch screen activated. These are inexpensive play options, and not to be dismissed lightly. Some offer extremely robust play with engaging content and others are just mental distractions.
Keeping abreast of the changes in the Tech Toys realm is a constant research and awareness effort, since new changes occur rapidly. I attend numerous technology conferences and briefings throughout the year, to stay current and engaged with the newest technology opportunities for kids and families. The largest annual event just occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada in mid January, 2014, at the International CES 2014 Show. I spent 8 days there, sleuthing for technology trends that will have a “Trickle Down Effect” for kids and families in the next 12 to 18 months.
Please send me information on your new products, and keep me updated via your press releases. Then, I can be better prepared to mention your products and updated technological advancements in future blogs and articles.