Toy Association’s Seiter Trend-Spots at the Consumer Electronics Show
January 15, 2019 | The Toy Association’s Ken Seiter, executive vice president of marketing communications, was at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas. Seiter not only previewed some of the latest product launches, he also moderated a panel discussing the role of play in helping kids learn STEAM skills, during the Kids@Play FamilyTech Summit. Toy News Tuesday sat down with Seiter to discuss some of the most compelling 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: The biggest perception I came away with from CES was the number of products appealing to the “empowerment of kids,” specifically encouraging young kids to create their own … you name it, whether it’s a robot, a game, or other kind of engaging activity. For instance, BellRobot’s Mabot lets kids learn the basics of coding by building, customizing, and programming a robot, allowing them to explore mechanics, engineering, coding, and learning important STEAM skills. Once the robot has been built, kids use an app to control the robot. This is just one of many engaging and innovative products that fostered the idea of what’s possible with electronic toys and play.
On that note, coding and robots are getting more proliferate and sophisticated – such as the launch of new coding robot called Artie 3000 by Educational Insights. Artie 3000 is a drawing robot that helps kids learn to code and fosters STEAM skills by imagining simple or complex drawings and designs that are translated through a "drag and drop" code on their device. Educational Insights says that coding with Artie 3000 encourages learning from both sides of the brain – building left-brain skills like basic programming, geometry, and math, while creating cool, colorful designs engages the right side of the brain.
TNT: What other trends did you see at CES that could apply to toys and play?
KS: Another trend that struck me was the use of tablets to foster socialization skills, such as Beyond Tablet, which is essentially designed to encourage person-to-person interaction among children, teachers, and parents through sensing and object recognition on the tool’s surface. Children can manipulate and program activity maps, cards, blocks, and figurines, etc. This is a trend that I noticed at last year’s show and it continues to make headway. I believe this trend will encourage toymakers to be even more creative about how they incorporate new technologies into their products.
Finally, as we continue to be mindful about the impact of technology in the toy and youth entertainment space, it was interesting to see the number of products featuring tech to help parents manage their kids tech-usage. TechDen is a new product that combines an app parents use to manage screen time with a physical box that charges and stores kids’ phones and tablets, called The Den, in order to teach kids about the balance between on-screen and off-screen time.
Can you share with us what was discussed during the panel hosted by The Toy Association?
KS: I moderated a panel titled, “STEAM-Powered Play,” where we discussed the important role toys and play have in encouraging kids to master STEAM-based learning, including how playthings can inspire curiosity, hands-on exploration, and encourage experimentation. The panel is part of The Toy Association’s multi-year undertaking to bring more clarity to STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and to help toy companies create better products for the next generation of children that drive interest in science, math, and related fields.
Earlier this year, The Toy Association published an in-depth report, “Decoding STEM/STEAM” that clarified the concept of STEM and STEAM and the role of toys and play in building science and math skills in children. The CES panel shared findings from the report.
Session presenters included several of members of the Association’s STEM/STEAM Strategic Leadership Committee including: Dr. Knatokie Ford, PhD, founder of Fly Sci Enterprise and a former senior advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Silver McDonald, head of LEGO Education North America; and Ted McGuire, president of Thames & Kosmos.
Any other thoughts?
KS: If you’re looking for more digital toy and play trends, Toy Fair New York is the place to see the newest and hottest toys and games coming to market, including innovative tech toys. Over the last few years it has been apparent that tech toys are not just a separate category anymore. Rather, toy companies have been incorporating technology into products to enhance all types of classic play and engage children in new ways.
Toy Fair New York takes place February 16 to 19 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Visit ToyFairNY.com to learn more about registration, educational sessions, exhibitors, and more.