There’s a lot to do at the International Toy Fair, from tightrope walking to banana music playing, there’s no shortage of innovative toys and products to experience.
There was also a trampoline, on which I attempted several back flips. That went ... well (read: not at all). That aside, here are my top three toys of the show:
Makey Makey: It’s simultaneously hilarious and brilliant. The Makey Makey is basically a few bits of clever electronics; some leads connect to anything with an electrical impulse (basically everything organic), which all feed back to a simple electric board. You ground one hand (like a car battery, to use a layman example) and use the other to touch other items plugged into the central board to create sounds.
That means you could create a soundboard from a row of fruit. Or a dog. All while accenting it with someone else’s forehead or hand. Unsurprisingly, the team behind the Makey Makey won an award for best toy from Popular Science this year. It’ll cost you about $80 for one.
SingTrix: I’m not employed for my American Idol-caliber singing voice, unless the comparison is to William Hung. Neither was the representative for SingTrix. But he was belting out “Bohemian Rhapsody” through the speakers, and the clever voice-manipulation software did a fantastic job of turning his scruffy, off-key vocals into an imitation of Freddie Mercury.
While this experience doesn’t come cheap - $300 for the box - it’s all down to how you want to use it. Sure, there are funny voice presets like “Tinkerbell” to tool around with, but this could be a karaoke gold mine. Imagine, you could actually sing in front of your friends without needing copious amounts of alcohol beforehand. Bars could make a killing if even the shyest patron could be so easily coerced into performing.
GoldieBlox: I’m down with anything that teaches kids real-world skills. GoldieBlox is kind of like Legos or K’Nex, but marketed at girls to teach them basic engineering. Women are underrepresented in engineering professions, arguably because the toys they’re given at young ages push them away from construction and toward fashion. Even if there’s a “Construction Foreman Barbie,” it’s more about the clothes the doll is wearing than showing girls how things are built.
GoldiBlox’s designers rope girls’ interests by creating a character narrative (with the brand’s featured character, “Goldie”) and building the experience that way, instead of throwing 1,000 pieces in a box and telling kids to just figure it out. GoldiBlox kits are designed to have girls create simple machines to help drive the story of Goldie, subconsciously teaching them engineering skills in the process.
You can find all of these products, and the others featured in the video, in some stores. But the safe bet is to order online.