I’ve just made it back from the 2008 New York Toy Fair. In the last five years I’ve been attending the show, this was definitely one of the best. One of the big reasons I attend is to see how technology is being applied to toys, both for fun and for learning. Year after year the Youth Electronics supercategory, a description within the toy industry to measure tech toy sales, grows by leaps and bounds. This year’s use of technology in toys was, for the most part, outstanding. Every year a number of themes present themselves at the show. Here’s are the themes I’ve seen at this years event:

  • Social Networking, Virtual Worlds, and Web Connected Devices – I counted at least twelve new or relaunched social networking / virtual world destinations for children. Some had an offline product like a stuffed toy complete with a code to unlock an online destination. Others had a device that would connect to your computer via the USB port.

  • Robots and Animatronic Devices – Many more robots this year. Mattel/Fisher-Price and Hasbro had some of the biggest announcements with robotic life-like dolls and animals. Also many more robot making kits were on display.

  • Motion-based Products – The Nintendo Wii has definitely had its influence on the toy industry. New motion-based devices for children were on display. However, a number of these tech toy products can only detect motion on an XY plane.

  • Green Products – A surprising number of companies were eager to tell you just how environmentally friendly their products were. From the materials used in their toys to the clever solutions discovered to power toys without batteries to the biodegradable packaging the product ships in. I was overwhelmed by the number of companies that were trying to do the right thing for the environment.

  • High School Musical – The licensing groups at Disney must be working overtime. Many booths had products using the High School Musical brand to promote their new crop of toys.

  • Dinosaurs – Last year I blogged that it would be the year of the guitar. This year it was noted that many dinosaur products will be coming out later this year. Some simply model kits, some stuffed toys, many robotic.

In the coming days I’ll be posting more information on a few of the products I think will become tech toy sensations later this year. Stay tuned!

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