With Christmas approaching, many children are filled with joyful expectations for this year’s presents. But today’s toys have become increasingly high-tech, attracting not only kids but adults as well.
One popular item is “Kinetic Sand,” a toy that makes it possible to play with sand indoors.
The sand is made by mixing Swedish sand and a silicon-based polymer, which then undergo special processing techniques. Unlike natural sand, which is dry to the touch, Kinetic Sand has a tackiness to it and feels solid when grabbed or molded.
“Parents worry about hygiene when they let their kids play outside, so I’m sure there’s a place for it (in the market),” said Miki Kobayashi, chief executive officer of Rangs Japan Inc., a distributor based in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. When the company started to sell the product at the end of 2013, sales reached 60,000 packs in only a month. The sand has been a hit not only with children, but also adults, who say it feels like tororo konbu sticky seaweed, which makes it soothing.
Tomy Co.’s robot dog “Hello! Zoomer” (left) and two humanoid robots, “Hello! Mip” (center and right).
Robots taking over
Tomy Co. released two models of toy robots this summer. Priced at 15,000 yen ($123) excluding tax and targeted at children 8 years and older, “Hello! Mip” can move upright on two wheels thanks to an inverted pendulum sensor. The humanoid robot can avoid obstacles with the help of an infrared light and dance in response to handclap commands. When linked to a smartphone, its movements can be synchronized with phone functions.
“Hello! Zoomer,” a robot dog that sells for 15,000 yen excluding tax and is targeted at children six years and older, can recognize about 30 Japanese commands such as “Osuwari” (sit), and respond with more than 40 types of actions. It can even react to about 15 English phrases.
Recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s smallest infrared remote-controlled helicopter, “Nano-Falcon” measures 81 millimeters in length. It is made by CCP Co., a subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc. based in Tokyo’s Taito Ward.
The aircraft is equipped with a gyro sensor, which is used in handheld digital cameras to minimize the effects of shaking. The miniature helicopter has many advanced features that go beyond what you might expect to see in a toy, including a flight stabilizer function that uses an added pair of propellers that rotate in the reverse direction.
Measuring only 59 millimeters long, the new “Pico-Falcon” is 30 percent smaller. The toy company plans to update the current Guinness record with the latest model, which went on sale in early December.
Not your parents’ Tamagotchi
Some of the toys that kids play with nowadays are modern versions of what their parents’ generation played with when they were younger.
Tamagotchi is an egg-shaped game gadget in which the toy’s owner raises an on-screen character. It was first released in 1996 by Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., formerly known as Bandai Co., and became a big hit. The latest version, named “Tamagotchi 4U,” has a local area network function that allows for data exchange among the devices. Special “hot spot” terminals are set at shops across the nation, including toy stores, to offer special add-ons for the game that can be downloaded by touching the device to the terminal. Women in their 20s and 30s have reportedly accounted for about half of the toy’s buyers.
Toys have become more and more high-tech recently as prices of parts such as sensors have dropped. Moreover, consumers have been seeking higher-quality goods.
“Children can enjoy playing with only one toy by creatively coming up with their own ways to have fun. If they receive new toys one after another, they can get bored before they ever get absorbed in playing with them,” said Fumiaki Ibuki, the chief editor of Toy Journal, a toy industry magazine. “So you have to pay attention to how you’re giving them toys.”
By Taro Koyano
(The Yomiuri Shimbun)