As Christmas approaches, Tech Expert Andy Robertson gives a great round-up of this year’s best value smart tech toys that will keep children entertained well into 2019 and beyond.
Technology develops rapidly. New ideas come and go. So it can be hard to find the best value smart toys that your children are going to enjoy long after they’ve opened them.
Find the right ones, though, and they can offer a safe, engaging and innovative way to help your child play and learn.
Here’s the leading lights of 2018 that are worth considering for your child, with some inside tips on how to access them without breaking the bank.
Starlink Battle For Atlus
Brings your child’s toys to life in a virtual world
Age: 7+ RRP: £64.99
This is a new combination of collectible toys and a video game. The game is a space adventure where you pilot your ship through a galaxy of planets. There are space battles, but you can also go down to each planet and discover a wide range of missions and stories.
The game comes with modular toy spaceships that clip onto the Switch, Xbox or PlayStation controller. Whichever ship you attach appears in the game. Not only that, though, you can customise the toy with wings, weapons and pilots and they are instantly reflected in the game.
Parent Tip: Consider buying the digital version as you get much more content than the physical packs in store.
Offers a magic lens into the human body
Age: 3+ RRP: £25.00
This is another innovation in the world of augmented reality. It combines this technology with the up and coming trend of wearable technology for children. Simply put on the t-shirt and instantly your child can get a unique view of how their body works.
There’s a 360 VR mode where you can explore from inside your internal organs and dive into the bloodstream, the small intestine and the lungs. But best of all is seeing anatomy, or circulation systems working and projected onto a child’s body.
The latest app also enables you to take a pulse and then see the heart beating at that exact rate. If you want to know more, anatomy expert, Hans Glover, can be summoned at a tap of a finger to guide you through your lungs, liver, heart and digestive organs.
Parent Tip: If your child enjoys this, consider also getting Curiscope’s other recent project: All About Virtual Reality: Includes 5 Amazing VR Experiences. The book offers some novel ways to learn about different topics.
Interactive AI Robot with a personality
Age: 6+ RRP: £79.99
Boxer is an affordable robot friend. Unlike other robot toys, he manages to squeeze a lot of personality into a small package. Along with general interactions and pulling wheelies, he can read smart cards to load in different games.
Place 1 of the 10 activity cards in front of Boxer and once he rolls over it you can play games like Bot Bowling, Paddle Bot and Go Kart. He also has an interactive ball that enables him to play a frantic game of football/
As you play with him his personality evolves. Learn emotions like happy, sad, grumpy or even sleepy. He also responds to your hand movements and knows when you are watching.
Parent Tip: Spend time loading in each of the games is a great way to understand how smart card technology works. The games also extend the play value of the interactive toy.
LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox
Over 840 LEGO pieces come alive with free app
Age: 7-12 yrs RRP: £149.99
This is a create your own robot with a difference. Not only is the toy made entirely out of LEGO but there’s an app to program how it responds to different interactions. Best of all, you can extend your construction with existing LEGO bricks.
Using the free app on a tablet or smartphone, children can code behaviors into whatever they build. This includes motorized robots, models and creations with distance, colour and tilt sensor technologies. You just download the free tablet app to your device and follow the step-by-step instructions.
Parent Tip: The kit enables you to build a robot, car, car, guitar auto-builder and off-road vehicle. Set your child a challenge to complete each one and learn programming along the way.
A dynamic and fast-paced music-mixing game
Age 3+ RRP: £119.99
Dropmix is a clever music and rhythm smart toy. You play it by placing music cards on the rectangular light-up peripheral. When you do it reads the card and introduces a different element to your musical creation.
What’s novel is that this includes music from real artists and from classic music you will already know. It seamlessly mixes the elements together to give the child an experience of being a DJ.
But then it challenges the player to ad certain types of music in a battle game where you score points by making great mixes.
Parent Tip: The game is rated PEGI 3+ but depending on the music cards you add, some songs are suitable for older players. Tell grandparents if you are getting your child this, as they can gift the music cards to extend the fun.
Vector and Cozmo Robots
Smart robot that can learn from your child
Age: 8+ Price £179.99
These are both highly intelligent robots from Anki. They can recognize your face, play games, explore your house and even stack the cubes they come with. Children will love the personality and interactions, but parents will appreciate how these toys can also create programming and logical thinking.
Vector is the more advanced version and operates autonomously. Cozmo uses a smartphone for its online interaction and computations. This means that the Vector version has the potential to do many more things.
You can use the Cozmo app to understand basic programming or go deeper with a Software Development Kit that schools can use to teach children about robotics.
Parent Tip: Younger children should go for the Cozmo robot although he is a little older. Functionally you get much more value for money for children from this cheaper version.
Takes Augmented reality to the next level
Age: 10+ RRP: £19.99
This is an augmented reality cube that offers a wide number of new ways for children to play — and at a really low price.
It’s a soft cube that has AR markers printed on each of its faces. This simple innovation enables the Merge Cube app to create a wide range of games, challenges and experiences. If you have one you can also view the content through a Merge VR headset.
It’s a great way to spark children’s interest in Augmented and Virtual Reality in a really tangible way. There are new experiences promised but even as it stands this is a great value way to try out AR in your own home.
Parent Tip: A great way to extend this gift is to also get the VR Goggles. This brings the AR experience into a fully immersive VR view of the world.