Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wind-Powered Model Helicopter? Go Fly a Kite

A remote-controlled helicopter, powered by the wind? Well, not exactly. This wind-powered helicopter is more kite than copter, and it needs a pretty stiff wind of at least 13mph to stay aloft.
Article Link (Gizmodo)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bluetooth Glove

The glove is made out of standard acrylic, but has fingertip sensors that induces a current when touched together. By making different combinations between your fingers and thumbs, you could send one of a few signals to be picked up by other Bluetooth devices.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

RFID Experimentation Kit

The RFID Experimentation Kit is the toy I always dreamed of owning. This kit includes over 12 different types of RFID tags, a USB RFID reader and a book full of fun projects. It does require a minimal amount of technical knowledge, but the kit includes every piece of hardware needed to complete basic and even advanced RFID projects. Think of it as your child's introduction to stalking. It is available for $100 and, unfortunately, is currently on backorder from Thinkgeek.

Article Link (Gimodo)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Spyke Spy Robot: He's Alive/A Bit Creepy

Spyke has more functionality than a Wi-Fi webcam. The robot can also work as an MP3 streaming device, Skype phone, motion-activated surveillance cam or yet another reason your in-laws despise you and your lack of fiscal responsibility.
Apparently, you can control Spyke via PC locally or far away through the Internet. But at one foot tall and sporting florescent green detailing, we doubt that your female roommates won't notice as it crashes against the bathtub.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Discovery Biosphere Terrarium Lets Kids Play God

This biosphere from Discovery can supposedly teach kids important things about nature and the environment and all of that crap, but isn't it more important that this biosphere allows children to play god with an assortment of insects living inside the biosphere. Making it rain, controlling the temperature and humidity, poking and prodding with tweezers are all things your overseeing child can do. Forty dollars is a small price to pay to give your kid a god-complex, just like mommy and daddy. –Travis Hudson

Article Link

WowWee robots invade McDonald's Happy Meals

WowWee's robot empire has seen some frighteningly rapid growth since the first Robosapien rolled off the assembly line, but it doesn't seem to be showing any signs of slowing down, with pint-sized versions of a number of the company's bots now making their way into McDonald's Happy Meals. While the king has sadly been left out, starting today you can get a Walking Robosapien, Roaring Roboraptor, Talking Robosapien V2, Running Roboreptile, Walking Robopet, Chomping Roboraptor, or Stand-Up Robosapien with the purchase of a Happy Meal. Those less interested in fostering the inevitable robot uprising can opt for a My Little Pony toy instead. Of course, all of the bots are decidedly less capable than their pricier counterparts, although we doubt that'll stop some of you from trying to mod them anyway. Check out the gallery below for a better look at 'em.

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Emotion robots learn from people

Making robots that interact with people emotionally is the goal of a European project led by British scientists.

Feelix Growing is a research project involving six countries, and 25 roboticists, developmental psychologists and neuroscientists.

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Robot rivals

"It's a horse race in this country," said Dan Kara, president of Robotics Trends Inc. in Upton, which tracks the industry. Kara says Boston has some advantages, such as a larger pool of venture capitalists, while Pittsburgh has heftier backing from state and local government.

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RFID Limited unveils designer BagChip luggage tags for the elite

RFID Limited is currently marketing its chipped luggage tags to airline industries as a means of reducing human error and decreasing the amount of luggage lost in transit. Additionally, the company is adding a dash of glitz and glamor to its BagChipElite lineup, which will reportedly be designed to match luggage crafted by the likes of "Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton."

Article Link (Endgadget)

Vivid on-line videos demonstrate Superbot progress

Wei-Min Shen of the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute recently reported to NASA significant progress in developing "SuperBot," identical modular units that plug into each other to create robots that can stand, crawl, wiggle and even roll. He illustrated his comments with striking video of the system in action, video now posted on line.

Article Link
Caterpillar Video

Article Link 2 (Gizmodo)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Making the Most Out of Word of Mouth

1- Create Blogs, with specs and pics
Upload Videos into Youtube
2- Toy Fairs and Product Placement are the venues to use to create awareness
3- Let customers design toy
Article Link

Study: Kids Get Their Way

The Fall 2006 National Kids Study features the following new highlights from children ages six to 11:

* Forty percent of MP3/Digital Media Player owners reported owning Apple's iPod
* 975,000 have visited/used in the last month
* 2,376,000 have downloaded music online in the last month
* 1,367,000 have written or read an online journal/blog in the last month
* Fifty-four (54) percent (or 13,078,000) have a television in their room
* Twenty-six (26) percent (or 6,263,000) have a stereo in their room
* Nineteen (19) percent (or 4,658,000) have a computer in their room

Article Link

New Plugged-In Toys Follow Kids Online

According to Nielsen/Net Ratings Inc., an Internet research company, the number of online users in the 2-to-11 age group rose 19 percent to 15.1 million in December 2006, from 12.6 million in December 2002.

These Internet-based toys are cost-effective, Byrne noted.

"It makes it possible to refresh the product without coming up with a new toy," he said. That helps keep children interested without having to keep investing in creating a new product, Byrne noted.

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Toy Fair '07 winds up with featurebuzz

A survey of the exhibition floor made it clear that toys in all categories continue to trend toward more electronics, interactivity, technology, content and customization. And extending the trend toward technology even further this year were a number of toy lines that can be played with on their own or hooked up to the Internet, including Fisher Price's Funkeys figures for kids as young as 2-4.

Highlights of a very broad product line from Hasbro include the Optimus Prime voice changer helmet and the Ultimate BumbleBee 14-inch action figure with light, music and sound effects that transforms into the Chevrolet Camaro concept car. Hasbro, which holds the licensing rights to Transformers, has signed up 190 licensees of its own for movie-related merchandise.

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GCC toy market grows by 11.8 percent per year

Worth an estimated $1.5 billion a year and with growth rate of 11.8 percent, toys are a serious business for GCC retailers, who are rapidly cashing in on the region’s booming population growth of six percent a year.

Season’s greetings
But although the market has enjoyed a steady and healthy growth over the past three decades, as would be expected from a region where an estimated 50 percent of the population is under 16, unlike other retail markets, selling toys is not all fun and games.

Primarily, it’s a seasonal industry, with approximately 65 percent of a year’s sales taking place during Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha, Christmas and Diwali. This sets it apart from other retail arenas such as fashion, where the year is broken into spring/summer and autumn/winter collections which sell fairly consistently throughout the year.

“Demand for toys is increasing by around 10 to 15 percent a year,” says their spokesman, who acts as the chain’s main toy buyer consultant.

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Don't fret: Toy guitars let kids rock out

Forget iZ and iDog, critters that rocked to the beat of MP3 players a couple of years ago. Now kids want to rock out themselves, or so manufacturers are betting.

"Just putting music in a toy isn't good enough. There has to be a legitimate play opportunity," says Marc Rosenberg of Zizzle, which is launching a High School Musical-branded guitar, keyboard and drum set ($7.99 each).

Article Link

David Levy (President) : 74% of all adults over 65 are grandparents

No market segment is larger, or wealthier, or growing faster than grandparents. In the United States, 74% of all adults over 65 are grandparents, and they spend $50 billion a year on their grandchildren. By 2025, 1-of-every-4 Americans will be a grandparent.

Even better, it's a love that never diminishes. Studies show grandparents spend about the same amount of money on their grandkids regardless of the grandchild's age.They buy baby clothes, then teenage backpacks, then college educations, then first house down payments. And they live more years being active grandparents, than being parents.

Grandparents purchase 1-of-every-4 toys, 4-of-every-10 books, and 1-of-every-5 video games.

Last year, one-of-every-3 grandparents bought jewelry or electronics for their grandkids, and over 60% bought clothing. However, grandparents consider education the most important aspect of their grandchildren's lives....second only to their grandkid's health.

A whopping 54% of grandparents contribute to the costs of their grandchildren's education, with 20% paying for at least 75% of college tuition.

Probably the most startling statistic is this one : The average age of first-time grandparenthood is a remarkably young 48.

Article Link

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It's Teddy Bear, Version 2.0

In real life, all that 10-year-old Megan Leffew's cuddly stuffed animals can do is sit on her bed in her room in Rockville. But online, they can play air hockey, whip up a fish-and-chips dinner or take a dip in a hot tub.

They are called Webkinz, huggable, plush toys with elaborate virtual lives that spotlight how children's play is changing, moving effortlessly between the real world and the Web. And in less than two years, they have become must-have items for tech-savvy 'tweeners.

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UPDATE 1-U.S. toy sales saw slight bounce in 2006

NEW YORK, Feb 6 (Reuters) - U.S. toy sales made a slight comeback in 2006 and are poised for a sharper rise this year, according to data released on Tuesday by market research firm NPD Group.

U.S. toy sales crept up to $22.3 billion in 2006 from $22.2 billion in 2005, helped in part by a strong holiday shopping season and 22 percent growth in sales of youth electronics.

NPD said the vehicles category saw sales rise 5 percent, with the arts and crafts and infant/preschool categories seeing gains of 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively, over 2005. With youth electronics, the four categories posted combined sales of $9 billion, NPD said.

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Wowwee's FlyTech Dragonfly now shipping

It might not be as flashy as some of those other Wowwee creations, but it makes up for it with some pretty innovative wing-flapping action. Plus, for $50 it won't break the bank. Just in case you missed it the first time around, Wowwee's FlyTech Dragonfly is RC controlled up to 30 feet (apparently that 150 feet we heard before was quite a bit off), rechargeable, and built out of carbon fiber for living through the occasional rough landing or (hopefully) frequent dive-bomb attacks. The included controller sports a magnetic perch and charges the bot in about 15 minutes for 10 minutes of flight time. Inside the box there are a couple of extra sets of wings and a spare propeller. For the moment this one looks to be a RadioShack exclusive.

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Virtuous Fulla doll outsells Barbie in Mideast

Glance at Fulla, and you feel sure she's Barbie's cousin.

The two dolls are the same height, with the same oval face and straight hair cascading down their backs. Even their plastic high heels are about the same size. But the similarities end there. Fulla doesn't own a bikini, for example, and certainly not the supersized chest to fill one.

Instead Fulla, created by a toy company based in the United Arab Emirates, and soon to be marketed in the United States by a Charlotte businessman, wears an abaya -- a long, black robe -- that covers her body from head to toe. Her eyes are mocha, her skin caramel, her hair jet black.

The doll, which has been outselling Barbie in the Middle East since its launch in 2003, is the latest example of a new crop of dolls reflecting different races, values, religions and cultures.

Fulla will appear at the 2007 Toy Fair in New York City Sunday-Feb. 17. Other doll companies, such as American Girl and Dolls Like Me, also have introduced ethnic dolls, including African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian options.

Named after a fragrant flower, the Fulla line includes a variety of dolls dressed in clothes that reflect different countries in the Middle East and Asia. But Fulla goes beyond the external fashion and beauty focus. She is a doctor and teacher who respects her parents and likes to read and play sports.

"The message that Fulla brings promoting good virtues for little girls," said Basel Kanawati, formerly chief technology officer for NewBoy, the company that created Fulla, and now in charge of U.S. distribution. "It's asking girls to take pride in themselves and not dress for boys and be the sex symbols that other dolls tend to be."

Kanawati, who lives in Charlotte's University City, said the doll fills a void for parents and girls who want a doll that looks like them and represents their values. The father of four daughters said he sees the pressures girls face. "They feel they need to imitate other people to be accepted into society. The message (of Fulla) is (that) you can be proud of yourself and function in society."

Article Link

Has the toy industry screeched to a halt?

One of them, the appropriately named Marshmallow Fun Company, has centered its brand on the age-old taboo of playing with your food. The company has created an extensive line of plastic weaponry that uses marshmallows as ammunition. The grown-ups attending the Toy Fair couldn't seem to get enough of the firing range that had been set up, and a sizeable crowd had gathered to test the array of marshmallow guns, bows and pistols. Marshmallow Fun Company president Johny de la Valdene, a father of five, called it "paintball without the pain."

But the Marshmallow Fun Company wasn't willing to stop at a line of food-shooting guns: de la Valdene explained that the start-up has also created board games, T-shirts and comic books. And a DVD movie as well as a game for Nintendo's Wii are in the works for later in 2007. They aren't just willing to deal with the gaming juggernaut; they're working with it, too.

When asked if he thought toy companies were "losing out" to video games, de la Valdene responded that he believes "a lot are. Now kids can just sit down on the couch and use their thumbs instead of playing hide-and-seek or tag."

The hurdle, he said, is creating something so different--and not necessarily high-tech--that it convinces kids to get up off that couch. It just might work. If I were an 8-year-old in today's world, the simple prospect of being able to terrorize my friends (or even better, younger siblings) with a marshmallow gun would probably be enough to make me put down the Wiimote. For a few hours, at least.

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Online communities, virtual worlds popular among the younger set

(CP) - There was once a time when all that was needed to create a virtual world for a child was an active imagination.

Now, it takes a click of a mouse. Hundreds of thousands of Canadian children are signing up to online social networking communities where they can chat, play games and create virtual worlds. But unlike sites like Myspace or Friendster, which encourage members to leave personal information on their profiles, social websites for the younger set do the exact opposite.

Article Link

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Top 10 Reasons Why Proposals Fail

1. They’re too long.
2. They don’t reference the prospect’s pain.
3. They’re too technical.
4. They’re not selling benefits.
5. They’re not well structured.
6. They’ve got spelling and grammatical problems.
7. They’re poorly formatted and packaged.
8. They’re missing testimonials and client references.
9. They’re missing a thank you.
10. There’s no call to action.

Article Link

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Real Toy Story

I do not believe that this book is going to go away any time soon. It is starting to get some legs, and it appeared in USA Today on January 28, 2007.
Clark writes about the toy sweatshops, which is nothing new. However, what is new is his attack on what he sees as the toy industry’s culpability in marketing to young kids. Here is what he had to say on the subject in the USA Today article:

"Kids are also abandoning toys at an earlier age. Ironically, Clark writes, the trend of KGOY — kids getting older younger — is partially the fault of the toy industry's marketing tactics of using sex and violence to attract kid sales."

Clark traveled far and wide to interview more than 200 people for his exposé. He opens at the annual toy fair in New York, journeys to small-town, independent toy stores, and ends the book where about 80% of toys sold in the USA are made: China's Pearl River Delta. Along the way, he adds fun facts to the doom and gloom, including:

* Fewer than 4% of the world's children are American, but American kids consume more than 40% of the world's toys.
* Tickle Me Elmo was Tickles the Chimp in prototype.
* Play-Doh was first marketed in 1956 as a wallpaper cleaner.

Clark saves the worst for last. The final two chapters, "Grabbing Them Young" and "Santa's Sweatshop," may send shivers down grown-ups' spines. "Grabbing Them Young" reveals the sometimes nefarious marketing methods aimed squarely at kids as young as 6 months.
“Beyond the bombardment from television, companies are increasingly using the Internet to both reach and analyze kids. One company, in one day, analyzed 475,000 individual blog posts to learn what they had to say about products. “
“Hasbro, Mattel and Disney have all been clients of Girls Intelligence Agency, which recruits 8- to 13-year-olds to host slumber parties by giving them products. The girls report back what their friends think, and as viral marketing, are encouraged to spread word of the product in their environment. “

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Hot toys for 2007: Flying robots, guitars, and a singing Barbie

Toy Fair preview: Eager to recapture kids' attention after the iPod onslaught, toymakers are putting a 'digital' twist on classic toys.
By Parija B. Kavilanz, staff writer
Lots of robots
"Optimus Prime voice changer helmet" from Hasbro.
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Lots of robots
Toy robots are a rage this year, thanks to the upcoming July 4 release of the live-action "Transformers" movie from DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures. Hasbro, which owns the Transformers brand has created the "Optimus Prime voice changer helmet" which makes your voice sound like a robot. The product will hit stores in June, selling for $29.99, suggested retail price.

The Air Hogs Robo Copter from Canadian toymaker Spin Master is a pretty cool innovation in the remote-control toy category. With the push of a button, the Robo Copter transforms from a robot to a helicopter. Kids can drive it on the ground or fly it in the air.

"If you're looking for one of the biggest `Wows' of Toy Fair, I think we have it," said Harold Chizick, spokesman for Spin Master.

The Robo Copter is expected to sell in the fall, priced at about $110, for kids 10 years and older.

"Robots are classic toys and a natural place for companies to incorporate new technology," Byrne said. New from Jakks' Xtreme Performance Vehicles (XPV) line of remote-control flying vehicles is the XPV R.A.D. series, which stands for Robotic Air Defense. XPV R.A.D. apparently is a flying RC robot that travels on land and then launches in the air. The company said XPV R.A.D can switch from a standing android to a flying robot capable of performing aerial stunts. The series is expected to sell in the fall.

Article Link

Friday, February 2, 2007

UGOBE delays the Pleo again, adds new sounds and sensor

We won't go so far as to call this thing vaporware: there's clearly an uber-cute, finger-biting robot in the works here (and that new press shot to prove it!), but our confidence has been shaken by this latest Pleo delay. UGOBE, which was claiming until recently that it would begin taking orders of some sort in March, with a price of roughly $250, has just announced that it's going to be releasing the bot in the summer of 2007 for about $300. To blame for the delays are new improvements based on test user interactions, including a brand new chin sensor -- sensor number 35 for anyone keeping track -- because that seems to be a touching favorite. Pleo is also getting better and louder speakers and an increased number of sounds for "fostering an emotional connection." Finally, UGOBE is brushing up the looks, with better sculpting in the hard plastic parts and more detailed eyes, along with adding muscle-like tissue under the skin to enhance the feel. You can't fault UGOBE for trying to make this thing perfect, we just wish they'd make it perfect a little sooner already. Peep a couple new shots of Pleo after the break.

"Hey... I remember the last time they tried to get me to go down these things."

"For some reason nothing ever smells as good as it did back in the Jurassic period."

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Hasbro's NET JET merges USB controller with online gaming

We've all seen those cheesy kiosks at the mall with some guy trying to sell you a controller with "8,000 games" built right in, which you can plug directly into your television for about three minutes of actual enjoyment, but now Hasbro is hoping to add a shade of respectability to the plug-and-play controller game market with its $24.99 NET JET device. The USB controller plugs directly into your PC (sorry, Mac users), and once you insert your "game card" of choice into the controller, it navigates to an online web portal where the corresponding game is launched and played on your screen. Hasbro offers up a variety of somewhat kid-centric titles at $14.99 apiece, including Marble Blast XP, Kool Kart Racers, Super Soaker Water Fight, and the obligatory SpongeBob SquarePants' Pizza Toss. Ideally, this wouldn't be a bad solution to laptop gaming for your offspring on lengthy road trips, but you should be sure to get a 3G-equipped lappie before taking this out where the WiFi doesn't roam.

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