107th American International Toy Fair
The holiday season may be a fading memory, the tree is heading for the chipper and the ornaments are already safely stored away for next year, but in New York, it’s the season of the Toy Industry Association’s 107th annual American International Toy Fair.
All the major toy makers are here to show their hot playthings for the next holiday season. Whether its card games, plush animals or the latest electronic game, it’s all there, with 1,100 exhibitors pitching their latest creations to toy buyers from stores large and small. The show is not open to the general public, but Tom’s Guide got in and found some of the coolest new techie toys for next year.
Here’s an assortment of our favorites from the show floor, which really make us feel like we were born several decades too late to play with them.
Apisphere GeoMate Jr.
Digital Scavenger Hunt
The game of geocaching, where you need to find and replace an item that someone’s hidden with nothing more than its Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates is a great way to get kids (and adults) outdoors. At last count, there were more than 250,000 geocache locations in the U.S. alone and Apisphere’s $70 GeoMate Jr. lets you find each and every one of them quickly and easily. Based on a SiRFstar III GPS receiver, the geomate jr weighs 2.5 ounces, runs on a pair of AA batteries and has a handy ring clip for attaching to a belt. The key is that when you turn it on, the device automatically identifies the closest 20 geocache locations, points you in the right direction and tells you how far away from it you are.
Perisphere And Trylon Wind-Powered Machine
The Answer is Blowing in the Wind
With huge turbines popping up from California to Maine to turn wind into electricity, Perisphere and Trylon’s Wind-Powered Machines kit is a great way to build your own wind mill without tearing up the backyard. The package comes with the plastic blades, gears and electronics needed to create two different 3-foot tall wind turbines. One uses the familiar three blade design while the other has 6 blades. When built, either windmill can light up an LED or charge a battery with nothing more than a breeze.
PowerGenix NiZn Batteries
Power to the Playthings
If there’s one thing we hate, it’s throwing away dead batteries. It’s bad for the environment, expensive and wasteful, but PowerGenix’s new nickel zinc batteries make green sense. The NiZn batteries outperform other rechargeable cells that use nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or nickel cadmium (NiCad) chemistry by delivering a full 1.6-volts of electricity rather than the puny 1.3-volts that other rechargeables provide. This can make radio controlled cars run faster and electronic screens glow brighter. The $29 kit comes with 4 AA or AAA batteries and a charger that can refresh the cells in one hour. If you use a pair of batteries a month, it can pay for itself in half a year.
ThinkGeek Electronic Rock Guitar
Wearing Your Music On Your Sleeve
ThinkGeek’s Electronic Rock Guitar lets you wear your music and play it at the same time. The guitar shirt is capable of playing a variety of chords or individual string notes through a small belt amplifier. ThinkGeek also sells a Drum Kit shirt that has 7 different drum sounds from bass to snare and its own speakers built in. You won’t be confused with the Black Eyed Peas or Lady Gaga, but either of the $30 shirts sound surprisingly good on their own. Together they can be the beginnings of a band that’s machine washable.
Mobo Shift Recumbent Tricycle
Pop a Wheelie
We love to bike but sometimes two wheels just aren’t enough, and the Mobo Shift recumbent tricycle is like a breath of fresh air. The 44-pound machine can accommodate anyone from a 4-foot tall child to a 6-foot grown-up. The handle bar steers the 16-inch back wheels and the pedal powers the 20-inch front wheel, which can be reversed with the flick of a lever to make parking it a snap. There’s a disc brake and the angle of the ribbed seat back is adjustable. It costs $600 and is available in white, black green or blue.
IFI Hexbug Nano
Robotic toys were everywhere at the show and Innovation First International’s Hexbug Nano was by far the most active. These tiny bugs run around, flip and generally go wherever they can by vibrating their 12 plastic legs. The little buggers sell for $10 each, come in five colors and run on a watch battery that can 4 hours of enjoyment. The company also has pre-made habitat play-sets for the robotic insects to buzz around and race in that cost between $18 and $50.
Snap Together World
It’s hard to believe that from 12 simple plastic parts you can make such an incredible variety of toys and sculptures. But that’s the beauty of KnuckleStrutz, which snap and lock together, but can still can rotate and bend to create an infinite variety of playthings. There are kits to make everything from an off-road vehicle to fighter jet, but you’re not limited by pre-set designs. With a little imagination KnuckleStrutz parts can be transformed into thousands of different toys. The kits sell for between $20 and $80.
Perplexus is, as its name says, a delightfully baffling 3-D maze game. Housed in a 10-inch clear plastic sphere, the object is to maneuver the metal marble through an array of 100 – you guessed it – perplexing obstacles all the way back to the beginning so you can start all over again. It takes good eye-hand coordination, a nimble hand and a lot of patience to negotiate the frustrating warren of traps, but it’s all good fun. The $25 toy’s sphere is perfect for small hands and, best of all, it doesn’t need batteries.