Just in time for holiday shopping and Santa's dramatic arrival, the Toy Industry Association (which is the trade association behind all the toys on all the shelves in all the stores) just announced the finalists for this year's Toy of the Year Awards. Why should you care about the equivalent of the Academy Awards for toys? Because these are the toys that the toymakers themselves love.
And did you know that "tech toys" have a specific definition? The association defines tech toys as "physical toys that are electronic or interact with a smart-phone, tablet or gaming device." Eight were selected in the Tech Toy category and let's just say... drones were big this year.
Air Hogs Connect: Mission Drone
Air Hogs Connect: Mission Drone by Spin Master Ltd. combines indoor drone flying with augmented reality. Smash buildings. Shoot robots. Capture aliens.
All this is possible thanks to an AR tracking mat that your tablet's camera uses to create virtual 3D environments on the screen. You can also fly the drone freestyle. The toy works with an iOS or Android tablet. It retails for $150.
CodeGamer by Thames & Kosmos teaches kids to code via a video game. Children learn the Arduino programming language by playing a game through a gamepad that they build themselves.
The gamepad includes lots of sensors, including for temperature, sound and light. It retails for $150.
Lumi is a another drone that puts the focus on fun, not flying or shooting video. Flying is made simple so your kids can concentrate on making it do tricks, play games and create custom air shows.
It comes with an included beacon and will follow you wherever you carry it. Lumi is made by WowWee, the company that brought us CHiP the robot dog. It retails for $60.
Okay, now it's starting to feel like the Drone awards. The Mota JetJat Ultra Streaming Nano Drone is billed as the smallest consumer drone on the market. It's like having your own personal insect.
It's big selling point is how easy it is to fly. You toss it in the air. You land with one touch. You can do stunts. Take selfies. You can even fly it with a VR headset (sold separately). Mota JetJat Ultra Streaming Nano Drone comes in black or white and sells for $100.
Sky Viper Hover Racer
If you like speed, you'll love the Sky Viper Hover Racer. It's a racing drone from SkyRocket Toys. Four drones can race at any one time. You create a race course with beacons that track your time and position as you fly.
You collect boosts, power ups and even weapons to knock you opponents out of the race. The drone retails for $75.
Wonder Workshop's Dash & Dot
Look! It's not a drone. Dash & Dot are two robots that teach kids to code. They sing, dance, play games, race and include 100s of programs, challenges and puzzles--all of which is geared to teach your kids coding.
Dash & Dot even make noises reminscent of Minions from the Despicable Me films (at least, I think so). So if your kid has Felonius Gru-like tendencies these robots might be a good place to start his career as a supervillain. The robots are a hit with schools and are made by Wonder Workshop. The Dash & Dot Pack retails for $200.
Zoomer Chimp is a chimp robot. It has a fully articulated face and eyes that change colors to fit his moods. He will even pout if you don't play with him. Zoomer Chimp can get up on his own and roll around.
He has sensors to detect and follow hand movements and will obey voice commands. Best of all, unlike a real chimp there's no danger that he'll one day wake up and tear your face off. Zoomer Chimp retails for $80.