Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on February 15th, 2016

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It's February but these new high tech toys will have kids dreaming of Christmas!

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 ThingMaker by Mattel, Inc. It's February, Christmas is now a fond memory. We are all thinking about spring, right? Well, not if your Santa Claus or a toy manufacturer! This week in New York is the "Toy Fair" by Toy Industry Association, Inc. Toy manufacturers like Mattel and Hasbro to name a few are exhibitors at this year fair. This is an event that caught my attention this year. Why you might ask? And why am I blogging about it here on a tech blog? Well, the answer is simple toys are going tech in a big way. Tech toys no longer just mean video games. Nope! Now there are toys to teach basic coding concepts to toddlers. I just read an interview on "Her Agenda" with Maci Peters (a first place winner of the Women Who Tech  Startup Challenge). In the interview was this brilliant quote "Tech is no longer going to be its own industry- it's going to be the foundation on which industries are built." I truly believe in this quote and find it applies to the Toy Fair as well. The toy industry will be powered by tech. So, what are a few tech toys that have caught my eye and prompted me to do this blog? Let's take a look, shall we?

1. ThingMaker. This 3D printer created by Mattel. The ThingMaker has a retail price tag of $300 and is expected for sale in the fall. It is geared for ages 13 and up and will allow the users to make their own toys via the 3D printer. "ThingMaker" is getting an update from the 1960's toy that allowed kids to make molds of creepy crawlers, etc. ThingMaker functions with an app "ThingMaker Design" available on iOS and Andriod. Mattel partnered with Autodesk to make the software on the app. The app comes preloaded with templates for characters, etc but also allows for custom designs. The fun doesn't stop when you press print either. The concept is to print the pieces of the toy that the user will then need to assemble. Sounds pretty cool!

2. Hello Barbie Dreamhouse & Start Light Adventure RC Hoverboard Drone. Look out, Barbie's Dreamhouse is going smart and connected. Mattel is on a tech toy roll at this year's Toy Fair.  The newest version of Barbies mansion is wifi enabled with a corresponding app that has voice control! Reports state that the voice control will be similar to Siri and HomeKit or Amazon Echo. Allowing the kids to verbally request things for Barbie to do in the house, such as ride the elevator, turn on the oven or set the party mood lights. The Dreamhouse is set to retail at $299 and it works in correlation with the Hello Barbie released last year. Mashable also reports that Barbie is getting a Hoverboard Drone! And, why should that surprise anyone, that girl always has everything! The Drone is said to retail in the fall for $59.99

3. View-Master. Yep, another innovative update to a Mattel classic. And, of course, it's going virtual reality by way of Google Cardboard Virtual Reality.  The new View-Master also has a slot to add in an Andriod phone to enhance the experience.  The View-Master will be available in the fall and retail for $29.99 with extra reel 3 packs at $14.99.

4. Code Gamer. Created by Thames & Kosmos this system allows users to learn to code by playing a video game. Solve puzzles and challenges to learn the Arduino programming languages which you can then use to make your own programs and apps. You can then use the included control and sensors to bring your coding creations to life. So, by the looks of just these four cool new toys, it's safe to say you better start planning ahead. With these new toys debuting in the fall it is a given that they will be on the Christmas wish lists of kids everywhere! Toy manufacturers are going the way of code.org and madewithcode.com/. They are using toys and games to reach kids and get them interested in technology and/or on the path to programming. Kids today are connected more than we ever were. They have smart phones at young ages and are using Google Drive and Google Classroom in elementary school. Technology doesn't scare them, to the contrary, it is how life is for them. Preschools and kindergarten classrooms have long used games to aid in learning. By way of tech-inspired toys and games, this hands-on learning can be carried on throughout middle and high school classrooms as well. Give a child and fun, a well-designed toy that has real functionality and they will not only have fun playing, but they will be learning as well. Kudos to the modern toy makers! I can't wait to see what other new toys debut!