It’s no secret that tech firms are colonizing the world of toys. Advancements in 3D printing, drone technology, microchips and app tech have led to the creation of small, kid-friendly projects. Though some classic toys are better left without add-ons — this year’s responsive, adaptive “Hello Barbie” mostly creeped parents out — kids in 2015 have the ability to use technology that wasn’t even available to their parents several years ago.
The Blade Glimpse
There are many toy drones on the market, including a Millenium Falcon drone complete with sound effects, but the Blade Glimpse is a high-end product that streams HD footage straight to the user’s smartphone. CNet applauded the Blade Glimpse’s landing gear in its line-up of best toy drones. Though it’s best used indoors, the little Glimpse can also hold its own against light winds. It’s definitely a great starting point for kids interested in drones, or spying on their older siblings.
3Doodler 2.0: The 3D Printing Pen
The world’s first 3D printing pen was released in 2013, but this Christmas season introduced an improved version. The 3Doodler 2.0 allows kids to manipulate heat and speed of plastic excretion on the go; among other improvements, 2015’s version has a portable power pack.
Reportedly, kids have already used the 3Doodler to write in braille, create figurines for animated short films, and enhance other toys like LEGOs.
Disney Infinity 3.0
Disney’s action figure and video game enterprise has been selling like crazy since 2013. Kids collect the figures and play sets, which they plug into the Disney Infinity Base in order to include their digital equivalents in the video game. Disney Infinity 3.0, the new version released in 2015, lets kids play with characters from films like The Force Awakens and Inside Out in settings from Marvel films. It’s the company’s way of capitalizing on all the separate franchises it acquired in the last few years, and so far, the strategy seems to be working.
Disney Infinity is more of a marketing strategy triumph than a technological achievement, but the mechanism that allows figures to appear on screen is certainly an important one. Combining video games with collective figurines is one of the smartest things Disney has done in decades.
The Wonder Workshop
Wonder, a coding language for kids, and the tiny robots meant to help visualize the process of programming, are completely sold out for 2015. The lucky kids who’ll have these toys on Christmas morning will be inducted in Wonder Workshop’s STEM initiative, meant to prime kids as miniature coders and programmers.
Wonder, the company’s kid-friendly programming language, allows the user to program habits and personality traits for Dash, a cute little robot who can follow kids around the house. Dash also comes with customizable accessories, like a xylophone, LEGO-style fashion add-ons and a trebuchet.
Dot, Wonder Workshop’s friendly version of HAL 9000, gives Dash his brainpower. Dot can come with snap-on bunny ears, bat wings, or a carrying case for portability. Both Dash and Dot are meant to be used with several apps, including Blockly.
Wonder Workshop has been holding programming contests and “Girls’ Day” for young coders since the release of its toys.
Sphero’s BB Droid
Gizmodo called Sphero’s unique BB8 toy the greatest Star Wars toy of all time. Its stunning design mimics the beloved droid from The Force Awakens with such realism that it’s hard to believe the toy actually exists.
Several people have dissected the tiny droid, which is both bluetooth-smart and app-enabled, determining that a complex system of magnets and a tiny self-righting system allows BB8 to travel on his spherical body. Though his head will stay on without much trouble, it does have the ability to detach if the droid gets himself into a bind.
BB8 can patrol on his own, exploring the environment of any child’s house with his learning capabilities. When the droid runs into obstacles, it places a stormtrooper icon on its internal map, reminding itself to avoid that location in the future. BB8 can even deliver “Help me, Obi Wan, you’re my only hope” style hologram messages, if kids point a smartphone or tablet at him.
We’re now in an age where kids can own multiple droids and tiny robots, programming them personally to act in certain ways. Those toys, along with 3D printing pens and HD video-capturing drones, mean most kids will be visited this Christmas by the venerable Robot Santa.