Every year, despite frigid temperatures and threats of snow, toymakers from across the country gather at New York City’s Javits Center to show off their newest playthings. Companies big and small set up booths to showcase the year’s most exciting forthcoming toys, and Ars wandered around most (although not all) of the 1.8 million-square-foot convention center to scope them out.
The Toy Fair takes up the entirety of the Javits Center, or four expansive floors that can and will mystify attendees as they walk through them. Around every corner are all-new stuffed animals, board games, collectibles and figurines, and of course, huge structures made by toymakers to impress. We were particularly struck by the K’NEX area, which housed a fully functioning ferris wheel, a huge rollercoaster with zipping cars, and other moving creations, as well as a life-sized LEGO Unikitty creation that appeared to be guarding one of the escalators.
We only spent one day at this year’s Toy Fair (the entire show spanned the long President’s Day weekend), but we managed to check out new additions to Funko, LEGO, and Hasbro’s already impressive toy families. The latter two companies have embraced new technologies more than ever before, both featuring connected toys that appear regular to the unknowing eye. Hasbro’s new Star Wars Lightsaber Academy features a typical glowing lightsaber, but a customizable module inside the handle lets you choose the Master you want to “train” you.
When paired with its mobile app, your chosen Master will show you how to use the Lightsaber in battle, while the tech inside the toy (including an accelerometer, gyroscope, and more) tracks your movement. The Lightsaber then transmits info back to the mobile app, where you can see how well you matched the instructions. You can even fight other Lightsaber Academy friends to accumulate experience and skill, all while logging your progress in the mobile app.
Augmented reality comes to LEGO in the form of new Hidden Side sets: the collection of seemingly innocuous places (a huge house, a school bus, and others) turns spooky when paired with LEGO’s new mobile app and an AR-ready smartphone. Pointing your phone’s camera at the completed sets shows just how haunted they’ve truly become, and your job is to capture the many lurking ghosts that inhabit these places. You do so by using both your smartphone’s screen and your own hands in front of the LEGO set. While there are a number of sets in the Hidden Side family, all ghosts can be captured in any one of the sets (save for the one master ghost of sorts that’s unique to each set). This encourages kids and adults to interact with their one completed set for extended periods of time.
Hasbro’s Lightsaber Academy ships in October, while LEGO Hidden Side sets will be available in August. Even with the exciting new technological additions to famous toys and franchises, it’s still fun to see the traditional favorites as well, like new LEGO sets, collectible figurines of your favorite Star Wars characters, and more. Check out some of the other toys we saw at this year’s Toy Fair in the gallery above.