Parents choose 'smart toys' over traditional playthings
Updated: 2014-06-01 07:21
By Shi Jing and Wei Tian (China Daily)
Children drive battery-powered toy cars at an international toy and animation exposition in Beijing. Electronic toys accounted for 20 percent of toy sales in China last year, according to a report by Euromonitor International. Zhao Bing / for China Daily
Leading international toymakers are also stepping into this market niche. Hasbro's Furby, a toy that has been around since 1998, was one of the best-sellers last Christmas. The owl-like robotic figure has a new incarnation, with more expressive LCD eyes and even its own Apple and Android apps. The updates were developed to add another dimension of interactivity, taking into account that many youngsters now spend as much time on tablets as they do running around.
The tech trend was evident at this year's Hong Kong Toy Fair, one of the industry's biggest happenings.
The Smart-Tech Toys zone was a hit. Even traditional toys in the zone had been upgraded into smart devices with app functions. Some of the most popular displayed items were iPhone-powered stuffed animals, virtual pet rabbits and gaming computers for kindergartners.
One smart toy that attracted particular interest was Apps1010's new product, which uses an iTunes app to scan a toy and then converts the 2-D image into a 3-D cartoon.
With this, parents and kids interact and jointly produce something, rather than just passively watch the screen or play on their own, the company's CEO Winston Chiu said.
The fair also revealed that electronic toys are designed with parents in mind, too. This reflects such social trends as declining birth rates. And it counts on the number of adults in touch with their inner child.
Shanghai video game designer Xu Haobo adores toys. Xu owns a collection, ranging from Legos to myriad electronic planes and cars.
"I'm often ridiculed for this," the 32-year-old said, laughing.
"Sometimes, I talk to my toys. But I'm fine with it. It's a good way to relax and find inner peace. Children are usually carefree. Why can't adults live the same way?"
But some parents believe electronic toys may be less popular among children.