Say the word “toy” to a techie, and his mind will think one thing: robots. But all infrared-loving, artificially-intelligent smart-toy-ogling tech-savvy aside, new toys can instill as much “ooh! shiny!” as even the hottest cellphone. And we’re not just talking about robots: This week, the International Toy Fair hit NYC, and PopSci.com found 20 funky new toys with a few tricks up their sleeves.
Of course, the real fun is seeing these gizmos in action, so check out our highlight reel below and then take a gander at all the things that caught our eye on the show floor.
No, it’s not a theremin–it’s better. The Beamz Interactive Music System plays like a virtual harp. Three LED beams span across each of its forks, each emulating a different musical instrument that you select using the accompanying PC software. Start off by playing along with pre-programmed tunes, and then you can move on to create, mix and record your own tracks. [Check our our video highlight reel to see it in action.]
Think of it as BopIt!, which Hasbro refreshed last year, on a trampoline. The Bounce pad senses the ball’s impact and tracks how much time lapses between bounces to guestimate how high the bounce was. There are several game challenges, including how many times you can bounce the ball in one minute (our demo hit an amazing 132) or how high you can toss and recover.
Bozza Nova Blazor
Like the Prime-8 before it, Bossa Nova’s Blazor raptor ‘bot is fast and steady. Using the same locomotion scheme as military robots, Blazor can move quickly across varying terrain, since his swinging legs land one foot at a time and he scurries forward. [Check our our video highlight reel to see it in action.]
Fine it’s not science (and it’s certainly not tech), but doesn’t a blogger love a good one-liner more than anyone? Bubble Talk is basically the Apples to Apples word association game, but it replaces nouns and adjectives with images and captions. This is a sample round that landed on the table during our demo.
Doodle Track Car
See-ya, slot cars! The Doodle-Track Car does exactly what its name says: it follows any black line. Two infrared sensors on the bottom of the car keep it centered on the line; it knows to turn when one sensor becomes further separated from the line than the other. At that point, the adjacent wheel stops spinning to turn the car. Drawing a solid black line, naturally, shuts it down.
When the original FlyBar debuted five years ago, PopSci took notice and awarded the six-foot-jumping pogo stick a Best of What’s New award. This year, the company is gearing up to roll out the FlyBar 1000, which takes all its old designs a step further–literally. The 1000 has enchancements that can add up to a foot to vertical leaps, not least of which are a streamlined chassis and piston infrastructure. [Check our our video highlight reel to see it in action.]
Gyrowheel by Gyrobike
This new take on training wheels doesn’t add to a kid’s bike; instead it replaces the front wheel entirely. The Gyro Wheel has an internal gyroscope that spins at up to 2,000 rpms to help steady the wheel and keep it upright. As the tike’s ride gets steadier, the speed can be turned down to give a little less assistance.
Lego Han Solo
On the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, Lego has (yes) the first carbonite-frozen Han Solo Lego figurine. ‘nuf said.
Marshmallow Blaster Rapid Fire
What’s better than Nerf ammo? Marshmallow ammo. This blaster, the most high-powered of the ‘mallow-shootin’ pack, fires 20 puffed bullets in a five-second burst at a range of up to 40 feet. Sweet. (Literally.)
Hot Wheels RC Stealth Rides
Mattel’s tiny RC cars squish down to about the size of a BlackBerry and fit right inside a slipcase that’s also the remote control. The perfect office-space distraction.
The Mobo Shift is an adult-size trike that does something special: it goes backwards. A simple flick of the gear-shift reverses the gear tracks to allow you full control as you pedal backwards. It’s frame is also expandable, so a person up to 6 feet four inches can comfortably cruise.
No, it’s not magic, but it is a really good trick. My Mystery UFO is actually dangling from a kevlar string that’s one-tenth the thickness of a human hair. One end is secured to the center of the disc, and the other is cleverly tucked at the back of the presenter’s shirt. [Check our our video highlight reel to see it in action.]
This Nerf Blaster is definitely compensating for something. At well over three feet long, it also boasts a firing range up to 35 feet.
If there was a Toy Fair award for the most ridiculous gizmo that people might actually buy, this would be in the top if — if not the winner. Mattel’s Puppy Tweets is a dog tag that you put on your actual dog; the tag then senses the pooch’s activity levels, barking, and the like and sends any of a set of pre-set tweets to its own Twitter feed. Amazingly enough, all dogs type in English.
Razor claims the design of their SoloSkate board makes learning to board easier. First, its platform and wheels (of which there are three, not four) are within a fraction of an inch of one another, which means less dipping up and down to push off the ground. Second, if you lose your footing allowing the platform to rise up, an instant break lifts and disengages the rear wheel almost immediately.
The Roboni-I is the first robot to nix infrared transmissions between the ‘bot and its remote control in favor of the new ZigBee wireless tech. ZigBee works on its own band, thus allowing up to 60 robots to be controlled in the same room without the controls interfering with one another’s signals.
Because I don’t spend enough of my day playing TextTwist or WordWarp as it is, Hasbro has made the additive scramble game tangible. Each of the five blocks displays a letter, and you have a minute to line them up and create as many three- to five-letter words as possible. Sensors on the sides of the bricks sense when they are lined up and keep a tally of your correct combos.
The World’s Smallest Puzzle
Crazy in the making. That is all.
Tropical getaways let us drink in the pool, but dangit if we don’t wanna play a rippin’ game of Bullsh*t while we’re at it, too. Splash Jack cards are made of super-thin and flexible foam coated in plastic, so they won’t warp or bleed in the jacuzzi.