The 14 Coolest Tech Toys You Didn't Know You Wanted
We went to a toy fair to see what cool stuff will be in stores for the holidays.
Today’s kids are tech-savvy experts. Before they're out of diapers, they've learned to swipe, tap, and respond. And that’s just the beginning. This holiday season, connected, tech-themed toys will dominate the toy aisles—and your kids will be looking for them beneath the wrapping paper.
We went to a major New York toy trade show to find the coolest tech-friendly toys that your kids will be asking for (and that you might want to play with, too).
1. CPK Baby So Real
Cabbage Patch Kids get a tech tweak with the CPK Baby So Real. This $100 baby doll has animated LCD eyes that open, close, and look around. Baby So Real is interactive, with sensors for peek-a-boo and tickle play, as well as sounds and random reactions that brings the doll to life.
An app mimics a baby monitor, so your child can see a virtual nursery. The doll comes in blonde, brunette, and African American versions.
2. Welspun Spin Tales
Forget Pokemon Go’s version of augmented reality. Textile maker Welspun has a cool spin on AR with its Spin Tales, an interactive story bed set.
A free app complements the bed duvet and rug, and lets you child turn story time on its head by aiming the tablet or phone at their bedding to see the story come alive. The first set costs $99, and tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
Skyrocket Toys' $149 robot is one of the coolest we’ve seen in a while. An iOS or Android app controls Mebo’s actions. With six sturdy wheels as its legs, a camera for its head, and large, articulating arm and claw, Mebo a great, multifaceted robot companion.
Navigate around your environment, check out what’s happening via Mebo's built-in high-def camera, and pick things up with the robot's articulated arm and gripping claw. Mebo offers bidirectional audio, too, so you can use it to talk with someone in another room.
4. Ozobot Evo
The Evollve Ozobot Evo is a rotund minirobot that you can program to do things. Evo costs $99, and includes a map board that Evo may be programmed around. For the holiday season, the company is offering the Evo Marvel Action Skin (sold separately for $30), which lets you attach a character like Captain America or Iron Man (with Black Widow and the Incredible Hulk coming in 2017) to the top of your Ozobot.
From there, the Evo can access the behaviors and personalities of the character hitching a ride on its robotic base. Expect a flurry of custom quips, LED colors, animations, and movements, as well as special missions, races, and challenges—all tied to a given character, and explored and controlled via the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy mobile app. An Ozobot Avengers Master Pack containing one Evo, one Marvel Skin, and various special behaviors will retail for $125.
5. Mattel Barbie Tablet
Yes, Barbie now has her own tablet. So does the American Girl franchise—and Fisher Price and Hot Wheels, too. Each one is priced at $80 (except Fisher Price's offering, which checks in at $100), with a 7-inch Android tablet built on a solid, kid-centric Nabi tablet (recently acquired by Mattel).
Each tablet provides special content that’s specific to its niche audience. For example, the Barbie and American Girl tablets are preloaded with apps, games, and videos relevant to their dolls' worlds. Another option is the Nabi SE Tablet, which offers kid-friendly features, too, but lacks the customizations around the different toy franchises.
6. Furby Connect
The classic Furby has evolved to join the interactive revolution. The $100 Furby Connect transforms Furby into an interactive Bluetooth-connected companion. Furby takes advantage of Bluetooth to interact with you via the iOS or Android app. It can learn, react to sound and touch, and speak over a thousand phrases.
Furby’s mood changes and reactions are visible in its eyes, which use color LCD screens in place of ordinary, static eyes. Furby responds to touch via sensors in its body, and it's aware of time, too, so you can expect it to ask for a snack or breakfast. For ages 6 and up, available in pink or teal.
7. Hasbro Love2Learn Elmo
Talking toys have come a long way since the debut of Barney many years ago. Elmo, the perennial Sesame Street fave, comes alive as a learning companion for kids over the age of 18 months. The $60 Bluetooth-enabled Elmo has an app that parents can use to program Elmo so he knows their child’s name and favorites, and can respond and interact with their child accordingly.
You can choose from three stages of Elmo’s knowledge in five different subjects—letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and animals. Elmo comes with various controls that you can implement to enlist Elmo's help with routines like going to the potty and brushing teeth.
8. CogniToys Dinosaur
This Wi-Fi Dinosaur is no ordinary sauropod. Powered by Elemental Path’s Friendgine and IBM's Watson technologies, this $100 dinosaur can interact with kids across a vast range of topics—including spelling, geography, and math.
The Dino is truly interactive, eschewing canned responses and reactions in favor of cloud-driven responses that learn from your child’s questions and interests. A parent module provides analytics on how your child is progressing in its interactions with the Dinosaur.
9. Barbie STEM Kit
Barbie is truly getting her tech on these days. First we had game developer Barbie, announced earlier this year. And now it's Thames & Kosmos's Barbie STEM Kit. This $29 package, available with Barbie or her friend Nikki, targets four- to eight-year-old girls by combining Barbie and science. The kit emphasizes positivity with a “you can be anything” tagline.
Inside you'll find a 32-page book packed with challenges, and the necessary components to build seven Barbie Dreamhouse models and accessories (Dreamhouse not included), create dresses for Barbie using biology and chemistry, and explore aspects of physics and engineering. The kit contains more than 100 pieces. Can Supercollider Barbie be far behind?
10. Robotics Workshop
Thames & Kosmos’s $199 Robotics Workshop provides everything kids 12 and up need to get started building their own robots. This step-by-step intro to robotics design teaches the basics of how sensors work; and it grows with your child, showing how to build simple and then increasingly complex robots.
Kids can use the complementary app to control their robot creations wirelessly via Bluetooth Low Energy. And when they outgrow the kit, no problem: They can move up to learning more-complex robot programming with the open-source visual block programming editor, Google Blockly.
Another learn-to-code option this holiday season, Thames & Kosmos’s $150 CodeGamer aims to introduce the concepts of coding to kids ages one and up. The kit includes an Arduino-compatible gamepad that connects wirelessly to a tablet.
Working with four interchangeable sensor modules, kids can play a video game that requires them to learn additional Arduino programming in order to move through the game’s puzzles and challenges. Kids can also write their own programs and applications that use the included sensors.
12. Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set
Aimed at kids five and older, Code & Go is a $60 programming teacher that invites kids to build a maze and then use coding cards to create a path for Colby, the programmable robot mouse, to find its way to the cheese.
The 20-by-20-inch maze board supports 16 maze grids and three tunnels, and the set also includes 30 double-sided coding cards and 10 double-sided activity cards. A second robot mouse, Jack, is sold separately for $30.
13. Boogie Board Scribble n’ Play eWriter featuring Colorburst
The concept behind the $35 Scribble n’ Play isn’t especially new; I remember a toy from my childhood that let me draw on its surface, generating various colors as I did so. But old-school gadgets had to be wiped before you could start drawing on them again. Scribble n’ Play, in contrast, is designed for the iGeneration.
Using the free iOS app, kids (and adults, too) can sketch their colorful Colorburst scribbles and creations on the Boogie Board’s LCD screen, save their masterpiece to an iPhone or iPad, and then share it with friends and family.
14. Boogie Board Jot 4.5 eWriter Featuring Clearview
The $18 Jot 4.5 has a translucent LCD screen that functions as a compact writing surface. The idea is that kids can write on the screen, by tracing over other content.
It’s a great way to practice writing and drawing, and it's also very effective for creating digital flashcards on the fly. The Jot comes with alphabet cards, and has a free companion iOS app for practicing math.