Tech toys heading for Christmas lists

We live in an age when children seem more interested in grown-up gadgetry (my 12-year-old niece is currently unsuccessfully lobbying her parents for a BlackBerry) than traditional toys. But if forecasts are correct, this could be a particularly tech-filled Christmas.

The UK’s Toy Retailers’ Association has just published its annual Christmas best-seller prediction list, in which staff from 20 retail chains name the dozen toys they expect to be most popular. Although the resulting publicity gives it a good chance of being a self-fulfilling prophecy, the forecasts aren’t always on the money.

This year’s list has several high-tech entries, both original gadgets and child editions of more familiar gadgets. The chairman of the selection panel told the BBC that “This year we have seen some amazing technological advancements from the toy industry. This does not mean to say that the toys are ‘techie’, rather that technology has been used to enrich the whole experience of play.”

Of most interest to Geeks Are Sexy readers will likely be the umpteen billionth take on the lightsaber, this time the “Darth Vader Ultimate FX edition” which comes with a training DVD. It’s also got motion-powered sound effects, which surely takes half the fun out of it. (Whispers “Whooossssh.”)

The likely most annoying gift is the Fijit Friends, which are some sort of robot alien abomination aimed squarely at girls. They allegedly respond to 30 keywords (plus tickling and cuddles) and can reply with 150 phrases, crack jokes, or dance along in time to any nearby source of music.

Speaking of music there’s Let’s Rock Elmo, who can sing or play a tambourine or drums, as well as interacting with people who’ve bought an optional human-size guitar, keyboard or microphone. Special prize to the first YouTuber who uploads a clip of Elmo completing Rock Band.

On the kiddie version front, there’s both a digital camera and a tablet up for grabs. The Kidizoom twist is a 2 megapixel stills and video camera that also has on board photo editing and games. Meanwhile the LeapPad is a tablet designed for 4-9 year-olds and comes with “100+ games and apps, including e-books, videos and more.” Those of us who bought the original iPad will be unimpressed to note the device includes a built-in stills and video camera which can be used to place the child’s image into video stories.

In other toy news, Lego now comes in a Ninja edition, while Nerf has a “Vortex Nitron” model that automatically fires discs.

But the most striking toy on the list is also arguably the most low-tech. Doggie Doo is what geeks would call a twist on the Buckaroo game engine in which:

Players throw the dice to determine how often they squeeze the dachshund’s lead. Each squeeze pushes the plasticine poop nearer to fruition and when the deed is done, players scoop the poop.

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