You'll be tickled by what Elmo can do now. This fall, Fisher-Price will introduce a new talking plush toy based on the "Sesame Street" character that says your child's name, counts down to his birthday and lets him know when it's time for lunch. The technology is made possible through a memory card in the doll's stomach that receives information from parents.
By now, adults have learned all about interactive toys like the virtual pet Tamagotchi. But the latest kids' gadgetry, unveiled this week at New York's American International Toy Fair, involves even more sophisticated technology, like motion detectors and sound recognition. The idea is to create toys that look, feel and act like living creatures. Some child psychologists aren't crazy about the new trend--critics say it can stifle creativity--but kids are. The latest generation of tots, who grew up playing with their parents' cell phones and iPods, expect their toys to be just as wired. "By 2010," predicts Jim Silver, the editor of Toy Wishes magazine, "they're going to have a toy dog that does everything but poop." Until then, here's the lowdown:
Walk this way. One of the biggest draws in 2005 will be the new lines of robots from WowWee, which found a hit last year with the Robosapien. This year, the manufacturers say, the robots are more "autonomous"--they act on their own once you put down the controller. The Roboraptor ($120, available in August) comes with sonar vision and hearing. Based on noise or movement, and one of several programmed moods like "playful" and "hunter," it will come over and nudge--or bite--you. (Fortunately, its jaws are about as strong as a kitten's.)
Chatter box. The Robosapien V2 ($250, December), a 24-inch robot with infrared radar vision, will not only pick up a soda, play catch and shake your hand, but it'll ask, "Where are you going?" if you walk away. Other toys, including "Knows Your Name" Elmo ($40, fall), are beginning to talk like the kids who play with them. Hasbro's new Furby ($40, fall), so packed with technology it's twice the size of the original, comes with a voice-recognition chip. If you continue to say one of hundreds of programmed words like "love" and "friend" the Furby will learn it and repeat it back to you. The doll also includes eyes that show emotions and a flexible beak--so it can smile or frown depending on how often you pet it.
Play with me. Other toys won't stand to be neglected. Mattel's Pixel Chix ($30, this fall), a virtual girlfriend, packs her bags and leaves if you ignore her. (You then reset the game and start over.) The "Here Puppy, Puppy!" Pound Puppy ($35, June) has a sensor that detects sound. When you make noise, it'll come out to play. When you leave the pooch alone, it lets out a yelp and heads for the doghouse. With practice, your spouse might learn to do the same.