Best tech toys 2020: Connected toys, robots and more
For many, the days of just building a spaceship out of Lego or playing a game of Monopoly are long gone.
Today, kids want interactive tech toys that are powered by an app or that connect to the internet. They want animals that learn and grow as you play with them, or robots that will answer back.
And thankfully, toy manufacturers are happy to oblige. There are plenty of different tech toys to suit all ages - maybe even for yourself.
We've played, poked, crashed, and tested a wide range of crazy and sometimes scary toys, to bring you a list of the best tech toys around right now.
Our pick of the best tech toys to buy today
The humble remote control car has been around for years, and while we occasionally see remote-controlled bikes they've always got stabilisers on them to stop them falling over. Spin Master has solved that problem with this new Ducati remote-controlled bike that has a number of gyros inside it to keep it upright no matter what you do with it. Capable of going up to 20km an hour and performing wheelies, it isn't cheap, but by the eighth doughnut you won't care.
This toy brings the "Game-to-life" concept found in video games like Skylanders and Disney Infinity to storybooks. At its heart, it is a padded speaker that comes with various children's book character figurines that can be placed on top to start reading the story. Tap the side and it skips to the next track - a game or song or such like, while removing the toy stops the book altogether.
There are two types of character figurines; ones with pre-loaded stories and others, called "creative-tonies", that are blank so you can load your own MP3 tracks on them.
A new coding robot that likes to draw, Artie 3000 can be programmed to draw a range of pre-programmed shapes, or simply whatever you can come up with. Reminiscent of the drawing turtle from the 1980s, it's a simple to use and code robot. Kids will be able to program the robot via a PC, Mac, or tablet and Artie includes a number of games so it's not all work, work, work.
Bringing traditional play to iOS, Osmo creates a number of interactive games that use an iPad as the gaming board, while also using the tablet's on board camera to see what you are doing. Games include Coding Jam, which uses physical coding blocks to solve on screen puzzles, and even gives your child the opportunity to manage a pizza shop, which encourages maths. Osmo also offers simpler, but still very clever learning apps, like drawing, basic maths and English.
Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit
With this coding kit, Harry Potter fans can follow step-by-step instructions to build a wand, which includes a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer so that it can track location, speed, and the position of a hand. The sensors allow the wand to detect the motions of spells in the Harry Potter world, and then kids can use the wand to do Harry Potter-related challenges inside the Kano app.
Beasts of Balance
It's a stacking game that uses an iPad, iPhone, or Apple TV app to help give it an extra dimension and marries brilliantly traditional gaming with a technological twist. The end result is great fun as you not only challenge of balancing the numerous array of beautifully crafted animals on the included scales, but as you do so seeing what creatures you can create by adding different counters and animals. Anyone for a Hogtopus? Yes, that's a beast that's half warthog half octopus if were wondering. The game ends when you can't stack anymore.
Furreal Roarin' Tyler
Roar at Roarin' Tyler and he'll answer back. The cute, fluffy tiger cub comes with 100 different sound and motion combinations and reacts to all manner of touches and noises. If that wasn't enough to interest you, the tiger cub can also move his eyes, ears, head, mouth and tail. Hasbro even throws in a toy chicken so he won't try to eat your TV remote control.
Fisher-Price Teach 'n Tag Movi
This mini robot, designed for kids aged three and over, has a trio of modes of play: Alpha Fun Actions, Think & Move Shapes and Learn & Play Games. There are also six interactive games designed to develop critical thinking. Thankfully not powerful enough to take over the world, a la Skynet, Movi has two wheels allowing it to zip around the living room with ease as it barks orders at your kid. It's like a polite, robot version of the drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket.
This very life-like baby doll will need feeding, putting to sleep and tickling if you are to get along. While that's the same with most dolls, the difference here with Luvabella is the true-to-life facial expressions that will have you thinking she's real - rather worryingly. She'll even play peek-a-boo.
With Hatchimals Surprise you get two little critters keen to break out of the shell rather than just the one. The aim of the toy is to nurture each Hatchimal with love in order to help it hatch. When they do come into the brave new world, the owner must help them progress from baby to toddler to kid. The twins, as they are known, can recognise one another, share secrets, play games and dance.
A cute Wall-e-like robot, Cozmo is powered by AI and runs via a compatible iOS, Android or Kindle Fire device. It comes with three interactive "power cubes" and promises to charm his way into your life regardless of your age. As you would expect, there is a heavy emphasis towards coding, but it's not all boring homework. You can also upgrade his treads to a range of different colours and there is a collector's edition model if you are really looking to stand out from the crowd.
Sphero Mini is a miniaturised version of the original app-enabled robot toy, only even smaller. The size of ping pong ball, you can control it with different modes in the Sphero Mini app, or you can just use your face thanks to a new feature called Face Drive. This uses your facial expressions to steer the ball.
Sphero Mini sports a little gyroscope, accelerometer and LED lights, as well as colourful, interchangeable shells. It uses Micro USB charging and gives you about one-hour of play after an hour of full charging. It also comes with three mini traffic cones and six mini bowling pins for different games.
Little Bits R2-D2
Using LittleBits' electronic blocks technology and the free Droid Inventor app, kids big and small will be able to teach their R2 Unite robot new tricks and take it on more than 16 missions across the Star Wars universe. Kids can even level-up their inventor expertise and reconfigure their droid to give it new skills, allowing it to be controlled by The Force or similar. The Droid inventor Kit comes with everything kids need to create and customise their R2 Unite straight out of the box.
Boxer AI robot
Boxer is not only is he diminutive and hand-sized, but he can pull off impressive tricks with a personality usually associated with larger and more expensive toys.
He has an expressive dot-matrix face that offers expressions and interactions with the player. He can detect movement in front of him and respond to it in a variety of ways. Following fingers or kicking a small ball around are just the tip of the iceberg. A range of cards can be scanned to set him playing a wide variety of games. Best of all you don’t need a smartphone to play with him.