A plush "smart" bear that learns about your child and a flying drone that live streams its aerial expeditions are just two of the new toys expected to be hot sellers this upcoming holiday season.
On Wednesday, toy retailer Toys "R" Us unveiled its "2015 Holiday Hot Toy List," comprised of 36 new toys for babies all the way up to those over 11 years old. Among the items named to the list are what the company calls its "Fabulous 15," which are expected to be the most sought-after and anticipated items.
The fact that many of the toys time-starved parents will be searching for this year feature some sort of tech element is not surprising.
"One of the things we have seen from an innovation point of view in the industry in recent years is advancements in technology not just related to lights and sounds, but to actually building personality into the toys," said Toys "R" Us Executive Vice President and Chief Global Merchandising Officer Richard Barry.
Nowhere are the advancements in technology helping to bring people into a more immersive experience more apparent than with the return of the video game Guitar Hero. The once wildly popular video game franchise from publisher Activision Blizzard(ATVI) - Get Report , which allowed children and wannabe adult singers to play plastic guitars and drums and get graded for their performances, is back this year after a four-year hiatus, with new technology that greatly elevates the gameplay.
Guitar Hero Live introduces two new ways to play, including a first-person perspective, allowing the player to act as the star of the show on stage as live crowds react to players' performances. Another gameplay addition is a 24-hour music video network, allowing fans to play along to official videos, including new album releases and classics.
A triumphant return for Guitar Hero will add fuel to an already strong toy industry, which has been propelled this year by red-hot interest in toys related to blockbuster movies such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World, as well as children's show Shopkins. In the first half of 2015, the U.S. toy industry grew by 6.5%, or about $400 million, according to research firm NPD.
NPD forecasts U.S. toy industry sales growth of 6.2% this year, an estimate that may prove conservative based on the industry's momentum. "We're feeling good about the holiday season", says Toys "R" Us's Barry, pointing to innovations from toy makers and the abundance of movie-related toys on tap for this year.
TheStreet runs down the five toys from the Toys "R" Us hot list that may quickly vanish from shelves and online this holiday season. Not all are ripped from the tech-inspired pages of Popular Mechanics, either.
One of the simplest toys on the Toys "R" Us hot list, Pie Face is an old game that was recently popularized by a video of a grandfather and his grandson playing a it on YouTube. Players load an arm with whipped cream or the included sponge and take turns putting their head through a mask while spinning a spinner. A handle is turned the number of times indicated on the spinner and the tension on the arm will build. Eventually, someone gets smacked in the face with some whipped cream.
The game has all the makings of one that leads to hilarious holiday season Vines or Instagram posts, which could lead to more post-holiday sales.
2. Fisher Price Smart Toy Bear, $99.99
Score one for Mattel's(MAT) - Get Report Fisher Price division with this high-tech take on a stuffed animal. The bears can understand spoken words, visually recognize cards and books, and remember a child's name and favorite things. The bear stores, assesses and provides detailed updates to parents on a child's learning progress; the data is stored in the cloud.
Best feature of all: they come with rechargeable batteries. Downside: this is an already pricey toy that will continue to cost money beyond the holidays as new cards with added content and features are released.
3. Star Wars R2-D2 Interactive Robotic Droid, Thinkway Toys, Price TBD
There will be multiple waves of new Stars Wars: The Force Awakens toys hitting the market between now and the movie's release on Dec. 18. And this particular Toys "R" Us exclusive, featuring an interactive 16-inch R2-D2, could be a winner.
The robot is driven by instant or preprogrammed commands via a remote controller. It walks, spins and turns its head in every direction. As icing on the cake, it boasts authentic movie sound effects and lights, and can project princess Leia on a wall when prompted. The droid will be available beginning in November, according to Toys "R" Us.
4. Meccanoid G15, Spin Master, $399.99
The Meccanoid is a programmable personal robot that stands about two feet tall and is comprised of 550 parts. The robot can use its onboard "Mecca Brain" and voice recognition to say thousands of phrases, tell jokes, play games, initiate conversations and even remember little engineers' names and birthdays. Programming options include one that will mirror a child's movements in real time.
5. Sky Viper Video Streaming Drone, Skyrocket Toys, $99.99
"Drone technology has really improved over the last twelve months. The ability to fly drones and control them is very cool," said Barry. This Toys "R" Us exclusive drone takes the drone experience to the next level.
Measuring 13 inches from blade to blade, the Sky Viper is a full-sized performance drone that can stream and record live video on any smart device. It also performs one-touch custom camera moves in autopilot mode and features a removable camera.
Added fun factor: a simple button push can get the drone to do a barrel roll. Imagine that view from the live-streaming feed.