Every year, the North American International Toy Fair hosts more than a thousand toy makers, distributors, and major retailers in New York City. And that makes for a super fun weekend.
The staff of Popular Science have scoured the 2015 Toy Fair showroom over the course of three days to select the 10 products that stand out above the crowd. Whether it’s an affordable virtual reality headset or a classic kit of building blocks, we were there to determine whether they’re worth your attention. Here are our favorites.
Popular Science is covering the coolest, most fun, and innovative toys at the 2015 North American International Toy Fair in New York City. Catch our complete Toy Fair 2015 coverage all week long.
Meccano Meccanoid G15 KS
There’s something charming about a doe-eyed humanoid robot. Meet the Spin Master Meccanoid G15 KS, a great plaything for budding roboticists. Not only can you build the bot, but you can program it to dance, respond to questions, and more. It consists of 550 parts and stands 4 feet tall once completed. It’s one of the best beginner robot-building sets we’ve ever seen–and also one of the cutest. (Available Fall 2015; $399.99)
Mattel + Google View-Master
Mattel recently announced a partnership with Google’s Cardboard team to bring virtual reality to the classic stereoscopic image viewer. Like Google Cardboard, the new View-Master will use the power of your smartphone to take kids to visit dinosaurs, the moon, and even San Francisco. (Available Fall; $30)
Crayola Color Alive Easy Animation Studio
Crayola wants to inspire kids to create the next great stop-motion animation film. Children (and aspiring adults) can use the Color Alive Easy Animation Studio to design up to 10 different characters and import them into an app. By positioning the mannequin that comes in the kit, users can make their characters act out scenes virtually and then save the resulting video. (Available July 2015; $29.99)
With all these other classic toys gaining some smarts, why shouldn’t Barbie? Hello Barbie incorporates ToyTalk’s speech recognition platform, allowing you to have at least semi-meaningful conversations about things you like to do. Barbie will remember certain interests of yours to bring up in later conversation. (Available late fall, $75)
LEGO City Spaceport
Not every toy needs a circuit board; sometimes, the best ones are simple. And that’s what we love about LEGO. You may just be snapping together little plastic bricks, but in the end, you’ve made a freaking space shuttle. Pretty cool, if you ask us. (Available August, $119)
WowWee Robotic Enhanced Vehicles (REV)
REV is the best of both worlds: It’s a set of cars you can drive around without needing a track. But it’s also a competitive game you can play against a real friend or an artificially intelligent opponent. Your AI car nemesis will follow you and do its best to beat you at the game using the company’s tracking technology. (Available in Q3; $100)
Robots would be much nicer if they were cuddly, right? This little fellow is something of a minimalist’s modern Teddy Ruxpin (which helped teach me to read as a child) but for STEM education. Trobo pairs with an app to tell stories in which the child is the main character. In one story, for example, my character ran out of honey needed to bake a cake, so I learned how bees make honey. The team is currently testing out Trobo in a few schools, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation. (Available for pre-order, $59)
Pixel Press Bloxels
Coding a video game is laborious—but Bloxels aims to change that with its new paint-by-numbers style of programming. The kit comes with 200 blocks in a variety of colors. Each color represents a different command. When blocks are assembled in the 10×10 grid included in the kit, users are able to build video games pixel by pixel. For now, the games are limited to dungeon-building, but the company hopes to add more in the near future. (Available Christmas 2015; $50.00)
Vex IQ Starter Kit with Controller
There are a lot of introductory robotics kits out there, but sometimes you want something with a little more power. The Vex IQ Starter Kit with Controller is a robotics builder’s dream come true. With more than 850 components, including sensors and a dual-analog controller, building options are endless. ($250)
Zorbz Self-Sealing Water Balloons
Water balloons are a classic summertime activity. The problem is that tying water balloons can take a toll on your fingers. Zorbz, the new self-sealing water balloons, fix that problem with a simple locking valve. When the balloons are filled, just give them a tug and they’re instantly sealed. ($7)