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Toy Fair 2009, Part II: Digital Bargains

rubik.pngMany parents are just about ready to give their kids two cans and some string and send them out to play. The days of $300 robots and $100 learning systems are fading fast. At Toy Fair this year, there was a nod towards austerity. But, while lower in costs, the toys did not suffer a lack of creativity.

tag-reader.pngzippity.png

For the youngest digiterai, ages 2-5, LeapFrog showed the Tag Reader Junior and Zippity. Tag Reader Junior is a pre-reader friendly version of LeapFrog’s popular Tag Reader. A magic pen (one chunky enough for the pre-pencil set crowd to grasp) senses information that’s embedded into the invisible grid on pages of tough cardboard picture books. When the pen touches a word, a color, a thing, stuff happens. Of course, pre-readers initially use this as if it were a stamp pad and not a book, but it does make books a delightful exploration. Price: $35

Zippity Learning System

LeapFrog and Disney Playhouse teamed up to create this game that’s a cross between Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Sports for the preschool crowd. Kids dance, jump, and move as they learn preschool skills. The mat is used to run and jump and the baseball bat-looking contraption (called “the bopper”) is used for upper body movements. Games feature Mickey, Darby, Goofy, and other Disney Playhouse favorites. $79

For older kids, Lego’s RC Car combines the love of building with Legos with a love of race cars. After you build your own Lego RC Car you use the radio controller to drive it round the tracks. Crash? Just rebuild your car. $39.99 for a 92-piece kit gives you two different designs.

Lego also announced a new set of Lego building bricks that will tie into a new website from the company. The site, Lego Family Time, will offer building plans each week that kids can follow along with or modify to their liking.

printies-final.png TechnoSource’s Printies Design Studio is an all-in-one craft studio that lets kids create unique stuffed animals using just their PC and printer. First they design their animal using the included software–choosing their favorite features, colors, patterns, and expressions. Then the creation gets printed on the special fabric sheets that can be used with any ink jet printer. Once the printing is done, kids stuff their animals with pillow stuffing, add feet and stickers. Best news is that there’s no sewing or gluing. $19.99 for a kit with six animals

One of the most open-ended play tools comes from Jakks Pacific. The EyeClops Jr. is a full-blown nightvision camera that allows kids to see in the dark. The inventive games you can play in the dark with nightvision goggles are never-ending. But, at $40, parents won’t be spending anything near what real nightvision goggles would cost even though the experience is quite similar.

 

eyeclops-mini-projector.pngIn the same vein, the EyeClops Mini Projector is a real working mini-sized LCD projector. It projects a VGA quality image. The image can be projected up to 70 feet, and can receive input from all sorts of gadgets: DVDs, game players, PCs, iTouch, and others. When it ships this fall it will cost under $100. A pocket-sized projector for under $100–adults are going to want to buy this one, too.

At $150, the product that left me slightly aghast by its price tag was TechnoSource’s Rubik’s Cube Electronic, but it’s a must for Rubik’s retro lovers. Instead of manually cranking the cube, you swipe your fingers across a row of colors using an iPhone-like swipe. The cube glows to your touch. An accelerometer inside the cube lights the squares and keeps track of which side of the cube you’re working on. Unlike the traditional model, the electronic version features hints for you when you’re lost and it will solve itself when you’re thoroughly disgusted.

rubik.pngThese products aren’t on the shelves just yet. You’ll see them start to roll out over the summer and into the fall.