Included among the high-tech toys at this year's American International Toy Fair are a device that allows you to turn basically anything into an instrument and robots that use recycled materials and run on solar power. Our Adam Balkin filed the following report.
The first annual American International Toy Fair took place in 1903. Toys have changed a bit since then. Safe to say, while it might've had new athletic equipment on display, there was nothing like the $35 TheO SmartBall, which allows you to stick a phone inside to soup up your gameplay.
"We use the sensors, the screen and the audio, and that allows us to what we call supercharge the ball and do a lot of things that you can't do with a normal ball," says Brian Sullivan of Physical Apps. "So for instance, we have hot potato, where we can play the music and you can pass the ball around."
Even our educational toys in 2014 often times try to teach lessons that weren't really being taught yet, if at all, 100 years ago. The Super Solar Recycler kit, out in mid-April for $20, allows kids to build six different robots. A key part of those robots is items you'd find in the recycling bin. Plus, light, not batteries, makes these creations move.
"Not only are you using recycled materials, they all run on solar power," says Daniel Ramirez of OWI Robotics. "So we're kind of hoping to instill ideas into children that there are other energy sources out there besides fossil fuels."
Finally, how about a tech toy that allows you to play the bananas kind of like you'd play the piano? The $50 MaKey MaKey starter kit comes with everything you need to make pretty much anything into an instrument or other type of digital controller.
"Anything that conducts electricity at all, you hook it up, and it becomes a button that can control your computer with," says Jay Silver of JoyLabz. "To use it, you literally plug in the USB controller and alligator clip to something, and you're ready to go."
Developers say that while users are learning circuits, electronics and design, they're hopeful that more so, it's teaching kids how to create their own worlds by re-creating the ones around them.