Last year at CES, the annual tech-gasm of consumer electronics, parents were served up products that monitored your baby, connected your appliances, and increased your TV’s resolution. This year, you can look forward to handing over more responsibility to the machines — connected homes are getting smarter, robots are getting bolder, and toys can be controlled with your mind. Almost.
Juvenile delinquents in their harem pants can keep their exploding “swagways.” The Blink board is an electric skateboard that has the soul of a Nash deck and the guts of Tesla. Best part: They can control this mini-bomber using their iPhone (honestly, they’re looking at it anyway). The Blink is a good commuter option, only weighing about 10 pounds and little over 2-feet long. It also has a max speed of 12 mph — which is faster than they usually sprint to the bus.
Acton Blink-Board ($500)
Available end of January
Segways aren’t just the dorkiest way to tour a city — they’re once again the future of transportation technology. Meet Segway APR, the half-transporter, half-robotic servant that you never knew you wanted. Intel and NineBot partnered with Segway to create this “Hoverboard Butler” — as he’s been dubbed around CES — which looks like Johnny 5‘s love child. You can ride him. You can have him answer the door. You can even give him tiny arms to go on beer runs provided that you program his open source code to recognize game day.
Segway Advanced Personal Robot ($TBD)
Available late 2016
The new generation of personal drones is here, and they’re becoming military-grade. If you’ve ever dreamed of getting some great Blue Angel-style fly-by shots of your kid’s soccer practice, you’ll want one of these. The Parrot Disco is a small, fixed-wing aircraft that is practically idiot proof (not you, the idiot behind you). It has an automatic takeoff, piloting, and landing. It flies at a breakneck 50 mph and has a 14-megapixel camera to capture the action. It’s not the only non-quadcopter drone on the market, but it’s kind of the sexiest.
Parrot Disco Drone ($TBD)
Available late 2016
Fisher-Price wants to turn your toddler into a tiny coder (it’s less sinister than that sounds). Each colorful segment of this little toy caterpillar controls a different action, like blinking lights or turning in different directions. Your kid puts it together in any sequence they want and then lets that bug do its thing — which unfortunately does not include the metamorphosis into a butterfly. Watch, in 15 years all the kids are going to be coding in Insect.
Fisher-Price Code-a-Pillar ($50)
The Power Glove was so bad. But 25 years later, the Ziro glove and robotics kit from ZeroUI restores a bit of hope to the motion-controlled toy space. The kit includes the glove, a few motors, some wheels, and some cardboard to construct a car (or robot, or pterodactyl). It’s not a particularly attractive product (the glove looks like a something you get at the pro shop), but that’s not the point. The point is fooling your kids into thinking that the Force is strong in your family.
Ziro Robot (Starting at $149)
Available late 2016
Volkswagen Budd-e ConceptVW
Move over aging hippies, the 2016 iteration of the VW microbus is coming through. The Budd-e electric concept vehicle wants to be less of a car and more of moving playroom. Everything is motion-sensored and voice-activated, you just have to say Hey, Budd-e (presumably only in a Pauly Shore voice). And since this sucker runs on batteries, there’s no possible chance it can get embroiled in VW’s diesel emissions scandal.
Volkswagen Budd-e Concept
Combine screen time with some IRL play and you have what looks to be like a pretty effective way to learn the ABCs or 123s. Marbiotic’s letter and number blocks work in conjunction with an iPad app your toddler is probably playing with anyway. Just drop the letters on the screen to either play games, puzzles, or enable a free-play mode. Pro tip: If the glass shatters from being smacked with blocks, your kid may not be ready for this product.
Marbotic Smart Letters (50 Euro, or about $53)
You’re way past the days of a rectal thermometer with the kids (and if you’re not, stop — you’re only lengthening their therapy sessions). Most parents end up getting the in-ear style thermometer to check obsessively for fever. But French tech company Withings has an even better way: the head. The Thermo is an advanced infrared thermometer that you just touch to the temple for readings. Not FDA approved yet, and it’s crazy expensive. But who can put a price on not waking your sick kid?
Withings Thermo Infrared Thermometer ($100)
Available spring 2016
It’s all about the little technological advancements that make life easier. For instance, you want one battery to rule all your power tools. Black + Decker’s 20V lithium ion Smartech battery can switch between tools, lets you know where it is remotely, and can lock itself from being turned on by kids or annoying neighbors. It also includes a USB port, because catching up on Transparent while you do yard work is your business.
Black + Decker Smartech Battery ($69)
Oh boy, your kid is definitely going to be the next Steven Spielberg (the young one that made Jaws, not the old one that made Bridge of Spies), because Kodak is bringing back the Super 8 camera, and they had Yves Behar design it. According to Kodak, the revived 8mm format is going to be a whole ecosystem of products including film, editing tools, and lenses, but also has a thoroughly modern display and DSLR functionality. So tell your budding director to sit tight, because right now all of this needs to go from a Swiss designer’s head to the store shelves.
Kodak Super 8 Film Camera ($ TBD)
The LEGOs that you can learn from have a brand new curriculum. With WeDo 2.0, students can learn how to use these humble plastic bricks to make fully-realized robots that can be program with a tablet or laptop computer. You might think of it as a less playful Mindstorm set that only gets sold to educators. But this isn’t LEGO’s lame side — remember, these kids could still go back to having a blast copying outdated ideas from a textbook.
LEGO WeDo 2.0
Available only to educators