There are always slew of gadget and toy shows at the beginning of each year, as inventors, toy makers and franchise creators set out their stalls for the coming months. Literally.
New York Toy Fair is one of the very biggest conventions around, with hundreds of stands and viewing rooms detailing the upcoming toys and kids tech. It also culminates the season so we now have a grand view of which will vie for children’s wish lists throughout 2018.
To help you sift the tasty from the tat, here are the top 10 toys that caught our eye this year.
Star Wars: Furreal Chewbacca Animatronic Plush
Surreal has been making impressive tech pets for years, but combining its character creation skills with the Star Wars licence is a step change in these quarters. The Ultimate Co-Pilot Chewie, to give him his official title, may stray from the gruff comedic presence on the silver screen but who cares - he’s adorable.
He has sensors all over to respond to touch interactions. He also knows when you pick him up or move him around. Lie him down and rock him gently and he will close his eyes, fall asleep and gently let out a Wookie snore.
Boxer AI robot
Spin Master had a slew of new tech toys on display, but Boxer stood out from the rest. Not only is he diminutive and hand-sized, but he can pull of impressive tricks with a personality usually associated with larger and more expensive toys.
He has an expressive dot-matrix face that offers expressions and interactions with the player. He can detect movement in front of him and respond to it in a variety of ways. Following fingers or kicking a small ball around are just the tip of the iceberg. A range of cards can be scanned to set him playing a wide variety of games. Best of all you don’t need a smartphone to play with him.
Jurassic World motion, sound and App toys
There are a lot of Jurassic World toys coming this year. A. Lot. But Hasbro’s line really stands out. The collectable dinosaurs will appeal to kids of all ages. And the tech sting in the tail is that these can each be scanned into an app that then lets you animate, light and interact with the massive creatures.
Also of note to tech-keen dinosaur fans is the Jurassic World Chomp N Roar Mask. This blue mask eerily recreates a velociraptor with mechanically triggered roaring and rumbling sounds, along with eyes that move left as right in time with its jaws. It’s a simple trick but really effective. There’s even a pair of velociraptor claws if you want to complete the effect.
Lower tech, but still a lot of fun is the Thrash N Throw T Rex. This triggers stomping and drawing sounds from motion sensors. Best of all is the snap and chomp action that emulates the attacks from the film.
Hotwheels Rocket League R/C Game
It seemed inevitable that someone would make a physical version of the hugely popular Rocket League videogame. Although we’ve had collectable cards with related DLC in the past, the game itself hasn’t been recreated to be played on a living room floor before.
Mattel has created a Hotwheels version of the game with remote controlled cars and a realistic Rocket League arena. The cars are fast and have a scoop at the front to control the ball. The goals keep score automatically with some clever tech that distinguishes between the ball and the cars crossing the line.
We can't wait to give it a go properly.
Lego Star Wars, Harry Potter and Jurassic World
This year was a little different at Toy Fair for Lego. Previously, the company unveiled its full line of sets for the whole year. This time though, only a handful of new products were on display. This left eager press photographing many kits that were already in stores.
What we did have were new sets for Star Wars. In particular, the Kessel Run Millennium Falcon (75212) which weighs in at an impressive 1,414 pieces. Tied in with the new Solo film, the set includes an updated version of the iconic space ship with an escape pod and opening panels. It’s also noticeably cleaner than the version you might remember.
Then there was the amazing Lego Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall (75945). It offers a deeper more detailed iteration of the famous educational establishment than we've seen before. From here, we moved on to a range of sets for the new Jurassic World movie.
The biggest of these are the Carnotaurus Gyrosphere Escape (75929) and Indoraptor Rampage at Lockwood Estate (75930). Both offer detailed recreation of scenes from the film with some tantalising looks at new dinosaurs and mysterious black suited agents.
Hexbug build-able Battlebots
This year we get two new remote controlled Battlebots from Hexbug. Bronco was seen a couple of years ago in prototype form but only now gets a full retail release. Hypershock joins him to extend the line of miniature fighting robots that are a whole lot of fun.
The big innovation this year is a build-your-own Battlebot. This matches the size and velocity of the celebrity robots from the show but can be snapped together in multiple options. Pick drive, wheels, weapons and armour and you are ready to take your own creation into an arena to fight others.
Nerf blasters with digital scopes
As ever at Toy Fair, there were a huge range of new Nerf blasters. Hasbro has done an excellent job at diversifying its range over recent years (although we're not totally convinced about the models that fire cars).
Along with new modular and power-loading blasters for Nerf Elite (Surgefire and Infinus), the Chrono Barrel addition to the Modulus range introduces new technology. It's a digital sight that helps you aim and also keeps count of how many darts you fire, as well as their velocity.
Furreal Animatronic Pets
As well as Chewbacca, other new Furreal pets were on display at the Hasbro booth, so well worth a mention.
Animatronic dogs, rockstar birds and even a broccoli eating dinosaur attracted a lot of attention. The magic of all these lies in the sheer level of personality and interactions they offer children.
PJ Masks Romeo’s Lights and Sound Lab
While many would write off the simple use of lights, sound and mechanical action in the new PJ Masks toys, they are actually a surprisingly intelligent implementation of tech. By using characters and voice work from the popular kid’s show, the toys extend play from the screen to the carpet.
The Romeo Lab playset from Just Play combines these elements perfectly for youngsters, without over-complicating the play. And, if you’ve not heard of PJ Masks, just ask a seven-year-old and they will bend your ear about Gekko, Owlette and Catboy for hours.
This is an augmented reality racing game that combines an AR app and Hotwheels track. The clever thing is that the cars charge in seconds and battery levels play a key part in the game. Players have to plan to pit if their charge runs low.
Using the app to play, you can also trigger missile strikes on other cars which forces them to pit and complete minigames before continuing. The action is super fast and a lot of fun. While it isn’t going to rival the in-depth play of Anki Overdrive, it has great play value and promises to land at an affordable price point.