As I rounded corner after corner at the NY Toy Fair this week, there they were: robots, and lots of them. Some were fuzzy and wanted to be my friend. Some had a menacing mechanical appeal. Others camouflaged as little organic creatures. Some were for toddlers, some were for tweens, but I mostly wanted them all for myself.
GeekMom is no stranger to Hexbugs (see Jenny’s Hexbug party), and they have many cool new additions to the lineup, including the remote-control Spider, collectable metallic Hexbugs, and new habitat sets and expansion packs for the Hexbug Nanos, which won the TOTY Award for Specialty Toy of the Year. Glow in the dark Nano sets were the talk of Toy Fair, but I was particularly taken with seeing the prototype of the new Hexbug Larva in action.
Like your robots more cute and cuddly? Cozy up to Penbo and Skylee from Bossa Nova Robotics, a company spawned from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. They pack a cuteness punch when you flip down their bellies to release an egg with a little Bebe inside – little puffball babies that the big robots will interact with, great for mama/baby play. When I had a look at them, there were some difficulties getting them to respond, but I could chalk that up to the convention center environment they were operating in. I’d want to see these in the living room environment to really check out their capabilities.
Others are trying their hand at the cutie robots, like Yoha Technology’s Tandars, but I couldn’t get past the freaky-looking face. If you want to see how the big guns do it, check out this video of Mattel’s Fijit Friends, which I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to see in person.
Bossa Nova was also showing Mechatars, which will be out later this year. I totally appreciated the engineers on the floor of the booth, plugging away at the programming and taking breaks to talk about the robots. Through online and offline play, you can evolve your Mechatar, giving it new skills, weapons and abilities for battle. I’ve gotten to the point where I tune out hearing about toys connecting to virtual world, but this one actually looks cool. The 3D art is much more console than computer, and the space age battles with the screen Mechatars looked as fun as the offline remote-control battle and mission play. Battle data and experience points are passed back and forth between online and offline play, so one mode of play informs the other.
On the education front, Robotis had cool kits targeting different age ranges with a robotics curriculum. Each kit had parts and step-by-step instructions to make a wide range of different robots, and to show what’s possible as a way to get creative juices flowing.
Robots were also present in design. I’m a big fan of Crocodile Creek gear. My daughter has one of their durable, little-kid-friendly backpacks, and I’m excited to see robots as choice for 1st Grade!
I fell in love with Kauzbots, Robots with a Heart. The retro-looking plush are practically pillow-sized at 18″ tall, and each has a back pocket with a little heart in it. Each of the ten different Kauzbots cares about a different cause (get it?), like autism, the environment, and homelessness, and 10% of the suggested retail price goes to a non-profit organization associated with each robot’s cause.
Last year, science emerged as a major presence at Toy Fair in the form of all kinds of science experiment kits and products. Seeing that expand further into robotics this year was exciting, even if the robots will one day rise up and destroy us. (I hope they will be the cute kind.)