GUEST COMMENTARY: International CES Explodes with Family-Friendly Tech

by Reyne Rice, toy trends analyst and consultant

Meccanoid G15 KS, from Spin Master

During the first week of January, International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 unveiled the latest consumer electronics innovations. Kids, families, and educators were among the target audiences for this new world of technology, which extended across all exhibitor areas. Here are some of the family tech-focused highlights from the show:

Robotics Were Out in Full Force

MiPosaur, from WowWee

From STEM to STEAM to STREAM, the robotics segment was highly visible on the CES 2015 show floor. Spin Master introduced Meccanoid G15 KS, a three-foot-high dynamic and side-cracking robot with the ability to transform and rebuild into multiple incarnations, as part of the revived Meccano and Erector range of products. WowWee debuted its new BeaconSense technology, which allowed the playful and powerful MiPosaur dinosaur to chase its companion robotic ball and follow its owner, and added new kid-to-robot components to the MiP line.

Ozobot announced its new Ozobot Groove app, while Modular Robotics showed off its range of modular, block-building play products, vehicle builds, and interactive models, such as the Moss Zombonitron 1600 and the Moss Exofabulatronixx 5200. Later this year, the company will add more modular sets for extended model building.

Droning Has Never Been This Exciting

REV, from WowWee

Drones also played a big role at CES 2015 with multiple toy and kid drones whizzing overhead, both at the press events and on the showroom floor. Examples included Parrot’s new MiniDrone and Bebop Drone, and Extreme Fliers’ Micro Drone 2.0, both with eye-in-the-sky camera capabilities. There will be new ground-to-air drones from Spin Master, which will be released from embargo at February’s North American International Toy Fair. Meanwhile, WowWee’s new vehicle range, REV, added artificial intelligence and GPS tracking BeaconSense tech to mobile-app controlled driving, allowing single-player and multiple-player options.

Orbotix’s Sphero continued to be a crowd-pleaser with attendees lined up to play with its mobile app-controlled racers. The company is a social media darling, and has grown its range to include STEM-based curriculum products. Its recently introduced SPRK Educator program has added teachers and after-school programs interested in utilizing Sphero 2.0 and related accessories in their learning approaches.

Crowdfunding Played a Key Role

Crowdfunding played a key role across the CES floor. The successfully crowdsourced Wonder Workshop, situated in the Eureka Park New Exhibitor Zone, showcased its code-building robots, Dash and Dot. Thanks to the company’s recent work with Code.org to incorporate the kid-friendly Blockly pro-gramming language, kids as young as age 5 could build simple code to activate these colorful robots, and make them race, play music, and more.

Not Just Going Through the Motions

New motion-sensor technologies are adding play value for companies such as Lego, which is partnering with The Eye Tribe to use eye-tracking technology to engage consumers at retail. In huge consumer displays, passerbys could use their eyes to build virtual Lego products.

Lego Fusion products—in which consumers construct a building façade, scan it into the app, and watch it come to life on-screen—are now available across retail partners. Lego Minecraft sets, introduced at retail in January, also appeal to hands-on kids who love making, creating, and sharing their builds across social media.

Training the Brain, and the Body, Too

The Force Trainer II: Hologram Experience, from Uncle Milton

Brain-building and fitness technologies have new applications in the toy industry. Uncle Milton launched The Force Trainer II: Hologram Experience, from its Star Wars Science brand, allowing attendees to use their brainwaves to slay attacking droids and power up their starship. Lumosity scored with its newest range of kid-focused brain-training online games, LumiKids, while Nabi showed off its new Go-Fitness Tracker wristband, which encourages kids to stay fit, use their fitness points to score with online games, and to earn Nabi coins that go toward prize incentives.

Echoing the success that GoPro has had with the adult, active sports-capture market, multiple manufacturers introduced new action cameras and wearable cameras for kids to capture their world, in addition to new kids and family tablets. In addition, Human-Eyes unveiled Virtual Reality 3D, 360-degree camera technology that captures stereoscopic video. The possibilities for these devices include 360-degree video capture of family vacations, kids’ sporting events, and concerts.

Extending Beyond Three Dimensions

In the 3D Pavillion, 3-D printing continues to expand. XYZ printing has designed its own XYZ Robot-building program that uses its priced-for-home DaVinci 3D printers, while 3Doodler launched its second-generation 3Doodler Pen 2.0, which has a lighter, slimmer design and offers a literal draw-in-the-air experience. 3Doodler’s latest pen extrudes heated plastic filaments that cool almost instantly as the user layers them to form a solid, stable 3-D structure. Even the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) showcased an original product in this category, in its Holiday 2014 window exhibit. Educational bundles of 12 pens, which encourage architectural drawing, artistic designing, and other applications, are available.

More kids’ technology innovations will be revealed later this quarter, as embargoes are lifted and toy manufacturers reveal their newest iterations at Toy Fairs worldwide.

Resized,Reyne_RiceReyne Rice is a seasoned industry professional with 30 years of experience in marketing, researching, and analyzing the toy industry. With 15 years as a trend expert, trend hunter, and industry analyst, Rice consults on both family and youth trends for toys, games, technology, entertainment, and  licensing. She currently advises trade associations, entertainment studios, manufacturers, consumers, and media outlets on the hottest trends and inno-vations. She can be contacted at Reyne@ReyneRice.com.