Trend-spotting at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
January 16, 2018 | Ever thought of playing ping pong with a savvy robot that tutors you as you play? It might seem like a far-fetched idea, but if you were at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week (January 9 to 12) you probably saw the Omron Forpheus in action – as well as thousands of other innovative products designed to make daily life easier, safer, healthier, and in some cases, simply more fun.
Ken Seiter, executive vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association, was on-hand at CES to preview some of the latest product launches and moderate a panel about play and learning during the Kids@Play and FamilyTech Summit. Toy News Tuesday sat down with Seiter to discuss some of the biggest tech trends he spotted at CES – and which among them he predicts will influence the toy and youth space.
TNT: What sparked your interest at this year’s CES?
KS: I noticed that products across just about every industry – from automotive and sports to healthcare, toys, entertainment, and more – “leveled up” in their abilities and features. In some cases, these improvements were made to simplify the user experience and allow for a seamless integration of the technology into consumers’ lives. For example, many applications – like artificial intelligence – have become more ubiquitous in common household items. I liked Kolibree’s Magik smart toothbrush – a toothbrush for kids that uses computer vision technology, motion tracking, and a phone’s front-facing camera to motivate kids to brush their teeth via an augmented reality gaming app. It also sends data to parents that includes information like when and for how long their kids used the toothbrush.
The face of retail is also changing at a rapid rate, as traditional brick-and-mortar establishments strive to stay relevant. Big data, smart merchandise, and experiential shopping were all buzzwords at CES. There is a definite shift toward consumer autonomy, and it will be interesting to see how this trend takes shape and impacts the toy industry in the months ahead.
TNT: What was your personal favorite product or trend?
KS: I love the idea of moving “beyond the screen” – particularly as we continue to be mindful about the impact of technology in the toy and youth entertainment space. Screens will always have a place in our lives – but not everything needs to be tied to a smartphone or tablet. I saw a coding robot for kids that has plenty of interesting features and opportunities for learning – without a screen. And there were multiple wearables with enhanced capabilities, including a wearable that functions as a personal trainer and tracks levels of progress. In the toy industry, we are noticing a trend toward more face-to-face play, classic games, and retro toys, as parents want to engage directly with their kids and take a break from their phones. I believe this trend will encourage toymakers to be even more creative about how they incorporate new technologies into their products.
TNT: Any other thoughts?
Privacy and safety continue to be a concern for consumers, particularly parents. Ed Desmond, The Toy Association’s executive vice president of external affairs, moderated a panel during the show’s Kids@Play and FamilyTech Summit about the importance of building safety into tech gadgets and apps for kids, especially as immersive and personalized worlds that promote connectivity become more common. Google is doing its part to educate kids about online safety with its Interland game with the tagline “Be Internet Awesome.” And The Toy Association remains committed to educating both companies and parents about keeping children safe during connected play.
In the panel I moderated about the changing business of play and learning, leading experts in child development and education in the digital age explored tech applications that enhance STEM education, early literacy, physical fitness, and more. We are seeing a far greater number of tech-enabled toys that do more than simply “wow” the kid with bells and whistles – the technology is being thoughtfully incorporated in a way that truly benefits the child in many ways. It’s really exciting to see.
The biggest tech trends in toys for this year will be unveiled by The Toy Association’s trend experts at the upcoming North American International Toy Fair (February 17 to 21) – so stay tuned for those updates, as well as trend predictions for classic toys and games, licensed toys, educational playthings, and much more. Visit www.ToyFairNY.com to register and learn more about the largest toy, game, and youth entertainment product marketplace in the Western Hemisphere.