Coolest and most unusual NYC Toy Fair 2016 techie playthings

Hello Barbie Dream House, new quadcopters among hot items at huge toy fair.

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Techie toys

The 113th North American International Toy Fair in NYC this past week boasted some 1,200 companies showing off the latest items to keep kids of all ages amused. Not surprisingly, the U.S. Toy Industry Association recognized tech-related products (drones, robots and “toys-to-life”) as being among the hottest, not to mention closely related STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) and “ultimate creator” (from cooking to designing to growing) offerings. Here’s a sampling of techie toys making their debuts at the fair.

BioToy Splashlight

BioToy Splashlight

BioToy’s first offering is a two-chambered water blaster, which produces glow-in-the-dark squirts from a natural bioluminescent chemical reaction between a protein enzyme and an anti-oxidant. The toymaker insists the product is safe, but does recommend wearing washable clothes. Recommended for ages 8+ and starts at $50 for 2 SplashLights and 4 reloads.

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Tinkerbots modular robotic building sets

Berlin startup Tinkerbots says its kits for building and controlling robots, without the need for cables or programming, can be fun for kids as young as 6. The idea for Tinkerbots hatched at Bauhaus University and received support via an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. They can work with LEGO and Mega Bloks building kits. Tinkerbot kits start at less than $200.

FlyCatcher’s CharmBricks Bracelet

FlyCatcher’s CharmBricks Bracelet

This CharmBricks offering is marketed as a STEM product in that it can be designed and programmed by kids ages 5 to 9 via an app that teaches them “the foundational skills of coding.” The result is a colorful bracelet made from small plastic bricks that can light up and blink. Stay tuned for pricing.

Mattel ThingMaker 3D printer

Mattel ThingMaker 3D printer

This $300 3D printer from Mattel, which can be pre-ordered on Amazon but won’t be available until the fall, is a newfangled version of the company’s ThingMaker toy creator. Some of you old-timers might recall pouring “goop” into molds and heating it up to create rubbery critters in the past. The new ThingMaker 3D Printer is a fused filament machine that builds layered items of many colors. Designs are submitted to the machine via iOS or Android apps.

Odyssey Toys Galaxy Seeker II drone

Odyssey Toys Galaxy Seeker II drone

Odyssey Toys doesn’t shy away from dubbing its toys as drones and showed off a handful of them at the Toy Fair. Among the new models is the lightweight Galaxy Seeker II, which it says boasts first-person view high-def video recording and virtual reality capabilities. The quadcopter, which works with the Google Cardboard viewer, retails for $200 and will be available in the spring.

VTech Baby Amaze Learn to Talk & Read Baby Doll

VTech Baby Amaze Learn to Talk & Read Baby Doll

VTech says this doll, already available at about $30, encourages reading from three different vocabulary books enabling kids to teach the doll to read. The doll also can be taught other good stuff, like asking for a bottle.

Mattel’s Hello Barbie Dream House

Mattel’s Hello Barbie Dream House

This sort of follow-up to last year’s Hello Barbie doll with Siri-like interactive features is essentially a smart home, a true Internet-of-Things display. It’s Wi-Fi-enabled and comes paired with an app so that kids can talk to it, such as by telling the elevator to give Barbie a ride up or down. The house is expected to cost around $300 when it is available in the fall. Oh, and Barbie is getting her own drone-mobile, too, also in the fall.

Tube Heroes University

Tube Heroes University

This isn’t quite a plaything, but rather an educational offering for would-be YouTube celebs. Jazwares, which already offers plush and other action hero toys depicting real-life popular YouTube stars, is now offering this program taught by bonafide YouTube stars on how to create good videos and vlogs and apps – and how to get these discovered.

Crayola Emoji Maker

Crayola Emoji Maker

Even crayons are going high-tech and getting the social media/texting bug. Crayola introduced a kit that lets kids ages 6 and older experiment with Crayola colors to make 16 customer emoji stampers. The set, slated for August availability, has a suggested retail price of $20.