Where can you find a talking bear that responds to your questions, a golf-ball-sized robot that follows the lines you draw and a watch that not only tells time but takes videos? At the 111th American International Toy Fair in New York City, which ran from February 16-19, 2014.
After scouring the football fields full of toy booths, here are my picks for 10 exciting tech toys coming to shelves later this year.
WikiBear (Ages 3-up, $59.99-$69.99)
Dubbed "Siri Bear," this brown plush bear can hold an amusing conversation with your child. While the bear is programmed to listen for certain words, it connects to the Internet to get information that it doesn't know. It will learn your child's name, likes and dislikes and bring that information into its conversations. This 11-inch bear with a moveable mouth is Bluetooth-enabled and works by connecting to any smart device via an app.
littleBits (Ages 8-up, kits range from $99 to $199)
Kids become inventors with these magnetized snap-together electronic blocks (little bits). The blocks – each a tiny circuit -- are color-coded so that kids know that blue blocks are power units, pink represents controls (such as dimmers, motion triggers or slides), while green blocks are outputs (such as sounds, LED lights, etc.). Using their own imagination, kids can create cars that run, whirling dervishes, mini boom boxes, robots and more.
Crayola My Virtual Fashion Show (Ages 6-up, $19.99)
With this drawing kit plus app combo, kids get colored pencils, a fashion sketch book full of models, and a free app. After designing clothes on the paper models, kids photograph their drawings with their smart device (iOS or Android) using the free "Crayola My Virtual Fashion Show" app. Their creations magically appear inside the app, swaying on 3D models who walk the runways in Milan, New York and Paris. Empower your budding fashion designer with this tech toy that is available now. A deluxe version with more art supplies is due out later this year as Virtual Design Pro – Fashion Collection.Tiggly Shapes (Ages 2-4, $29.95)
Learning about real 3-D shapes is one of the reasons that block play is so important for toddlers and preschoolers. With Tiggly Shapes, kids experience classic physical blocks with exciting digital content. The 3-D block set contains a circle, a square, a triangle and a star. Made of plastic with silicone touch points on the bottom, the blocks can interact with the iPad screen. To play, parents download three free apps: "Tiggly Draw," "Tiggly Safari" and "Tiggly Stamp." Tiggly Count, a set of physical math manipulatives known as counting rods, are due out later this year.
MOSS (Ages 8-up, kits range from $149.95 to $399.95)
Building robots becomes as simple as connecting square blocks that are color-coded to perform different functions. There is no writing of code or wiring, just snapping together the blocks with steel spheres to build things that spin, crawl and move. These sets make the complicated process of designing a robot a snap.
Kidizoom Smart Watch (Ages 5-12, $49.99)
This 1.4-inch smartwatch wraps a lot of tech around a kid's wrist. It instructs kids on how to tell time, and also provides an alarm clock with funny tones and animations, a timer and a stopwatch. But the cool factor is that this watch houses a camera for taking photos and videos, and manages to squeeze in three fun mini-games. It will be prized by any pint-sized gadget geek.
TheO Smartball (Ages 2-6, $34.95)
By embedding a smart phone (iOS or Android) in a cushy foam ball, kids bounce and toss their way through personalized digital games. The supercharged ball comes with eight free apps, which range from a shaking game pop balloons to ones that teach ABCs and 123s in physical ways.
Little Scholar (Ages 3-7, $199)
This 8-inch-screen Android tablet is jam-packed with over 150 apps, eBooks, songs and videos. Unlike many of the other Android tablets currently on the market, this one has high-quality content produced by School Zone, a leading educational toy company. From the get-go, the tablet draws kids in with three adorable blinking animals that are icons for preschool, kindergarten or first grade. Kids cannot access the Android marketplace so all the content is safe to explore alone. Little Scholar also provides parents with a nifty reporting app, so they know what skills their kids have been working on.Ozobot (Ages 6-up, $59.95)
This one-inch ball-like robot with one flat side loves lines: lines you draw, lines on a gameboard or even lines on a smart device (both iOS and Android). This intelligent game piece also reacts to colors and special codes you can embed in your hand-drawn lines. Launching later this year, the pint-sized robot will come with four free app games.
Simon Swipe (Ages 8-up, $19.99)
The classic memory game of Simon is getting an exciting tech facelift by adding a touch screen. This classic round board that is divided into four colors, now sports the ability to swipe in addition to tapping. Players need to watch the lights on the board to see if they need to tap or swipe a colored section to repeat a pattern. Adding swipe creates a whole new dimension to these four frantic recall games.