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Toy Fair Roundup: Top Toy Trends of 2015

This week, we stopped by the 2015 International Toy Fair to get a sneak peek at the toy trends to watch for in 2015. From toys that talk (sans pull strings) to retro favorites with a new twist, we’ve rounded up the ones to watch.

The American International Toy Fair is the place to be to witness what’s at the forefront of creativity, technology, and play. New, old, big, and small, thousands of toys are displayed, but we’ve combed through the bright colors, scooters, stuffed animals, and action figures to let you know what’s on the rise for 2015.

Last year we saw toys that focused on offline play, and while they haven’t gone away, tech-forward toys took center stage this time around. Toy brands are embracing technology in a way that challenges its “mindless” reputation to emphasize its inquisitive, educational, and engaging possibilities. The biggest trends we saw involved giving old favorites a technological twist and a huge shift towards conversational playthings. Here’s what we saw: 

1. Real Talk

Over years of research, Mattel has found that the number one thing kids wish they could do with Barbie is talk to her. Well now technology is catching up with their wishes, and having a conversation with a toy—sans pullstrings, pre-recorded phrases, or Tuddy Ruxpin cassette tapes—is a major emerging trend. One of the big stories out of the Toy Fair is Mattel’s partnership with startup ToyTalk to release the new Hello Barbie, an internet-connected version of the doll that can have real back-and-forth conversations with kids. (Think a Siri/Barbie hybrid.) ToyTalk writers will create conversations about everything from favorite color to future aspirations based on their predictions of what kids will say. The doll is connected to the cloud, so the writers are able to change and evolve her dialogue over time. But she’s not the only talking toy in town. CogniToy, a talking small plastic dinosaur that looks like the child of Yoda and Barney, was unveiled at the Toy Fair, will be one of the first toys to hold a conversation with children. The child holds down a button on the figure’s belly, and speaks to CogniToy, who is connected to the Internet and IBM’s Watson cognitive cloud. CogniToy will respond to whatever they have said, and give age-appropriate answers. It can also remember the child’s name, likes, dislikes, can answer questions, do math, create stories, and tell jokes. Interactions are meant to inspire creativity and be educational, and will evolve with the child over time. Parents will be able to track their children’s play progress through a connected app. CogniToy’s unveiling was paired with a Kickstarter campaign which in three days has raised over $100,000, double its original goal. The smart Dino is the first of many planned to come. 

2. In With The Old

Barbie is being given a tech-forward reboot in an attempt to put her back on top of the toy game, and Mattel is also attempting to reimagine a retro favorite for a new generation. They have teamed up with Google to bring back the classic View-Master, with a modern twist. The toy is now fueled by virtual-reality, and the old photo reels have been replaced by Google Cardboard, which uses augmented reality to create an immersive experience. All users will need is a smartphone and the Mattel app to view “360 degree photospheres” like Alcatraz, space shuttles, Star Wars, and more. Mattel has struggled with incorporating technology into its products, and most likely hopes that Google will help them out of a serious slump, while Google wants to introduce virtual reality to a younger audience.

3. Robot Friends

The Toy Fair’s 2015 Toy of the Year winner embodies a major trend: robot friends. Zoomer Dino (ok, dinosaurs were also clearly a trend) is an interactive toy that can be controlled with both hand gestures and a remote control. But while he uses true balance technology to roam on two wheels, he’s more robot than remote car. Kids can “tame” the dinosaur by teaching it to sit and speak, and when its tail is pulled, it dances, chases, chomps, or roars. The toy’s eyes change color “according to mood,” and he nuzzles those who have managed to train him. Zoomer Dino’s parent brand Spin Master also showed off Maccanoid, a programmable robot building kit allows for customization and control from an iPad app, and Zoomer Kitty, a robot cat that can be taught tricks, purr, and cuddle. Robot friends are clearly on the rise.