2009 Toy Fair: Tech Toys Rule at NYC Toy Confab

Robots, a tiny hydrogen-powered car, and a touch-sensitive Rubik's Cube are among the high-tech offerings at this week's trade show.

High-Tech Goodies at Toy Fair 2009

Among the most interesting toys shown at the American International Toy Fair in New York this week were mind-reading Jedi training devices, levitation wands, and a touch-sensitive Rubik's Cube that can give you hints.

The show, put on by the Toy Industry Association, closed Thursday, but earlier in the week more than 1500 exhibitors displayed their toy and entertainment products. The annual trade show, closed to the public, caters to toy buyers and sellers who want to browse the items that will be available for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

This year two themes dominated. One was affordable toys, items priced below $30. The other was tech--no surprise, as kids have come to expect a digital chip inside most toys and games these days. Following is just a taste of some of the computerized toys and games shown at this week's Toy Fair.

For more unusual gadgets and playthings, see "10 Invincible Gifts for the Cubicle Warrior," "WowWee Robots of CES," and "Tech for Your Pets."

Orbitwheel Skates

Inventist, the maker of Orbitwheel, claims that these odd-looking skates are easier to use than a skateboard or rollerblades. To move with them attached to your feet, you twist your body while moving your hips from side to side. To see the Orbitwheel in action, check out Inventist's YouTube video. I shudder to think what kind of damage children could do to themselves in a half-pipe with these on.

A New Spin on Rubik's Cube

I could never quite crack Rubik's Cube back in the day. I finally gave up. But I might try again with Rubik's TouchCube, from toymaker Techno Source. Why? The company has reinvented the toy by outfitting it with touch-sensitive sides. Instead of twisting the components of the cube, you slide your finger against the row you want to move. The high-tech twist (pun intended) on the old-school cube just may get me to waste another couple dozen hours trying to solve the thing. This time the odds are in my favor, though, thanks to a new feature that allows Rubik's TouchCube to give hints to the puzzle-challenged. Rubik's TouchCube has an estimated price of $150 and will be available this fall.

Affordable Hydrogen Car

If I could afford a hydrogen car for driving around my home city of Boston, I would. Until then the closest I'm getting to owning and driving a water-powered car is with a tiny toy vehicle made by Thames and Kosmos. This little fuel-cell-powered car was one of 11 science kits the company showed at Toy Fair. The toymaker, dedicated to education, also announced this week kits that teach children about wind power, space exploration, genetics and DNA, and archaeology.

Crayola's 3D Sidewalk Chalk

Up until now sidewalk chalk has been low-tech, but leave it to Crayola to put a new twist on an old classic. Crayola's 3D Sidewalk Chalk can make pavement scribblings jump--the catch is, you'll have to wear goofy 3D glasses to see the effect. The 3D Sidewalk Chalk is available today at online and brick-and-mortar retailers for approximately $8 for a basic kit or $50 for a deluxe kit that includes an ample supply of chalk.

Erector Spykee Vox Robots

This is definitely is not your father's Erector set. Meccano (which now owns the Erector brand) showed off a new Erector robot this week. The robot, called Spykee Vox (pictured in the middle above), can be configured in one of three different ways. You can outfit your Spykee Vox to play music from your iPod, program it to respond to voice commands, or instruct it to turn the channels on your TV.

Star Wars Force Trainer Teaches Budding Jedi Knights

A company called Uncle Milton's Toys just might have come up with the ultimate toy for Star Wars fans: the Star Wars Force Trainer. The Force Trainer uses a headset that measures brainwaves. The readings then translate into an airstream produced by a fan inside the Force Trainer base, which moves a ball up and down. The Force Trainer is part of the company's line of Star Wars Science toys. Other Star Wars toys include the Darth Vader Robotic Arm, the Jedi Telescope, the Jedi Projector, and the Mustafar Volcano Kit. The line of Star Wars Science gear will not be available until later this year. The Force Trainer is estimated at $100.

FunFly Stick Makes Levitation a Snap

Unitech's FunFly Stick isn't exactly brand-new. But I'm happy the company was showing off its line of "magic levitation wands" at this year's Toy Fair, because the toy is just plain cool. The FunFly Stick works by emitting enough static to raise objects made with Mylar tinsel high into the air. The end result is mesmerizing to watch (check out the video). You can pick up a FunFly Stick for about $27.

Digital Blue's Lego Gadgets

Can't get enough of Lego building blocks? Now you can listen to digital music and snap digital pictures with Legos, too. The toymaker Lego has partnered with the company Digital Blue to assemble a line of electronic gadgets, including a boom-box radio, a digital camera, and an MP3 player. Digital Blue says that models will be available later in 2009; pricing and exact specs aren't yet set.

Texting for a Clue

If you're a fan of the classic Hasbro board game Clue, you'll want to give Clue: Secrets & Spies Edition a try. In this version, "each player takes on the role of a top international spy tasked with infiltrating the Criminal League for Ultimate Espionage to stop its evil scheme for world domination by intercepting the nefarious Agent Black," the company says. The game has a mobile twist: Players can use text messaging on their own cell phones to receive clues. To initiate texting, you send a message to Agents Plum, Scarlet, Mustard, and others, and every 8 minutes you'll receive a hint about Agent Black. Clue: Secrets & Spies Edition will be available later this year, priced at around $25.

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