In the past 3 years of attending the New York Toy Fair, I’ve found the experience to be informative about the industry’s direction. Without question, the integration of technology has become pervasive in almost every toy category. Yet there’s also been a considerable amount of stagnation in respect to big ideas. Instead, innovation seems to occur not from the larger well established companies but rather the small independent upstarts who have the hunger and flexibility to take huge risks.
Last year, I stumbled upon toy inventor Jeff Hartman who created a toy motion controlled helicopter called the Force Flyer. Jeff and his young son were tirelessly demonstrating the appealing new gadget to anyone who would listen. Jeff knew he had a wonderful product but desperately needed to make others believe if his vision in order to flourish. Fast forwarding to this year’s NY Toy Fair, I was thrilled to see Jeff’s hard work had paid off exponentially.
At the 2013 NY Toy Fair I discovered two very different, but ingenious toy products being offered by independent toy makers. The first was Cloudrobot created by TTTECH, a group of developers, software and design experts, from Hungary, Budapest. The exhibition booth they had at the Toy Fair was about 6 feet wide lacking any fanfare in respect to colorful marketing materials, posters, etc. in fact, I could have very easily walked by and not noticed it had I not needed to tie my shoe. What caught my attention was the small boxing ring and these two 16 inch robots with boxing gloves that were stationary. There was a man sitting in a folding chair seemingly on break. I asked him, “do these robots actually work?” He spoke in broken English as he stood, picked up a wireless controller similar to something one would use with a console game, and then proceeded to make these robots come to life. They twisted and moved and threw a variety of punches much like a android in a science fiction movie. I couldn’t help and grin like a wide eyed 12 year old boy. It was obvious this was a prototype but the potential seemed limitless for the future. Quite frankly, as the robots dropped bombs, jaws were dropping. Amazing stuff. Watch the video below for a quick overview by Cloudrobot as well as action footage.
The second discovery I made at the 2013 New York Toy fair is a novelty device called Balloon Blast created by Alex Doring. He invented the device after a visit to a California theme park with his children resulted in a relatively expensive lost balloon. Balloon Blast allows a child (ages 3 and up) to release string for the balloon so it can rise up high and then a motor can retrieve it. Given the tendency for children to lose their balloons to carelessness, a gust of wind, o just poor happenstance, this nifty little device will certainly come in handy. Visit their website for a video demonstration of the device in action.
The key to winning hearts and minds has been and always will be renewing our sense of wonder. Witnessing the innovation evident at the 2013 New York Toy Fair has certainly left me looking forward to the future. Well done toy makers, well done indeed.