HoliDAY of Play 2015

COMMENTARY: The More Things Change with Star Wars Licensed Toys…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Kylo Ren 20-inch figure, from Jakks Pacific

A long weekend ago, in a toy store far, far more crowded than I had anticipated (Toys “R” Us Times Square, though I really should have known better at that point), I checked out Destination: Star Wars—The Exhibition, which showed off Star Wars toys past and present. It closed this past Monday, but photos of all the exhibits can still be found online. Besides the opportunity to see vintage Star Wars toys, it was worth visiting because located over in its own themed corner of the store were all the new toys launched in anticipation of the upcoming, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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Marbles: The Brain Store to Be Select Launch Partner of Sphero’s BB-8

StarWars,BB-8,SpheroMarbles: The Brain Store will be a select retailer of Sphero’s BB-8 droid, based on the character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Through Sphero’s app-enabled technology, users can make BB-8 listen and respond, adapt its personality, and more.

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New Star Wars: The Force Awakens Toys and Other Products Go on Sale Everywhere

Force-Friday-logo-RED[1].jpgToday, merchandise inspired by the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens launched at retailers as Force Friday officially went underway. More than 3,000 retail locations in the U.S. opened their doors at midnight for fans to be among the first to discover new Star Wars products.

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Sphero Launches App-Enabled, Programmable SPRK Edition

Sphero SPRK EditionThe Sphero SPRK Edition, which launched today from Sphero, is an app-enabled, teachable robot ball designed to sharpen kids’ math and science skills, and unleash their imaginations through a library of more than 30 free apps.

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COMMENTARY: Smart Technology Spans New Categories

by Reyne Rice, trend hunter, toy trend expert, industry analyst, and consultant

Resized,Reyne_RiceSmart tech for kids is no longer buzzword lingo. It has become a reality and has grown to encompass so much more than just technology added to toys to make them interesting or “tech-y.” Today, kids’ technology-enhanced products offer engaging and explorative play patterns that span a wide spectrum of categories. And while there are new technologies being used in these toys, the thrill is in the play experience, not in the technology itself. New technology enhances and extends play patterns way beyond how kids were playing in past decades. Plus, parents, older siblings, caregivers, and educators are all using new technology that companies are translating into toys and tech products for kids’ worldwide.

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The Walt Disney Company Announces Second Startup Accelerator Program

DisneyAcceleratorLogoThe Walt Disney Company is accepting applications for its second Disney Accelerator program powered by Techstars. Disney Accelerator will select 10 startup companies for a three-month mentorship and investment program beginning July 6 and concluding with a Demo Day on October 6. [Read more...]

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: [Read more...]

The Chicago Toy & Game Group Reveals 2014 TAGIE Winners

TAGIE.AwardsThe Chicago Toy & Game Group has crowned this year’s recipients of the 2014 Toy and Game Inventor of the Year (TAGIE) Awards. More than 400 guests representing 23 countries gathered at Chicago’s historic Navy Pier Grand Ballroom last Friday to toast today’s top playthings.

The Chicago Toy & Game Group acknowledged the following winners from nominated categories:

Excellence in Game Design: Oliver Morris, designer of Gravity Maze

Excellence in Toy Design: Ian Bernstein, Adam Wilson, and Sphero team, inventors of Ollie

Rising Star Designer: Alice Taylor, designer of Makies [Read more...]

Sphero Releases Fast-Driving, App-Driven Ollie

OllieSphero will launch its next-generation, app-controlled robot, Ollie, which features the same technology as the company’s Sphero 2.0. Featuring a tubular design, Ollie has the ability to drive up to 14 mph; and execute tricks including spin, drift, jump, and flip. Through apps, it can provide automatic feedback and points based on the difficulty of the maneuvers and tricks performed.

Programming apps will also be available, and users can customize Ollie with a collection of accessories and parts, which will launch for the holiday season. Accessories include nubby tires, turbo tires, and ultra tires that give users a completely different driving experience. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Not Your Average R/C Toys

Give a child a R/C controller, and he or she will be occupied for hours, steering or flying whatever device it is around the room or outside. Give a child an iPhone and chances are your contacts will end up being deleted, you’ll be left with 350 pictures of the inside of your little boy or girl’s mouth, and your phone will soon self destruct—but, that’s about to change.

There’s no denying that it’s now essentially encrypted in children’s nature to be intrigued by new technology at increasingly younger ages—and let’s face it, most of the time they get the hang of it a lot quicker than adults. But instead of parents discouraging their children from toying around with iPhones, iPads, and tablets (because they’re of course not toys, they’re high-tech adult equipment that are soo not used for playing Candy Crush), they can instead support a productive way to use such devices with these awesome toys.

I was first introduced to Orbotix’s Sphero 2.0 when someone in the office put it on my desk and said, “Here, play with this.” I looked at the box a little confused wondering what it was, and as I starSP0SPHERO003ted to read the instructions (very helpful to figuring out how toys work), I realized that this was, hands down, one of the coolest toys I’ve ever played with. It’s simply a ball, not a fancy monster truck with huge wheels and the ability to smash into the wall, crumble into pieces, and put itself back together all while singing jingle bells—or something like that. But, it’s a robotic ball with an engine and it’s really, really fast and controlled by your phone. You just download the Sphero app on your iPhone, iPad, iTouch, or android device and using a Bluetooth connection your device transforms into a control that propels Sphero at speeds up to seven feet per second across the room and off ramps. The driving accuracy really impressed me because I do tend to be a little spazzy with toys like these, but it was actually easy to maneuver the toy around bends and turns and what not. Sphero 2.0 also lights up in a variety of neon colors which looks as spectacular as it is to play. There are also a ton of other apps available to engage Sphero in a variety of games. [Read more...]