Trend for augmented-reality, app-enabled toys grows

IPad-compatible toys featuring augmented reality that combine physical objects with on-screen displays are looking to be a hot trend in play this year after two such toys picked up awards at the Toy Fair in London and the Nuremberg Toy Fair in Germany. 

Both the London Toy Fair and the Nuremberg Toy Fair are renowned for identifying the hot toy trends for the following year: this year the trend for app-enabled toys looks set to grow.

For the first time in its history the London Toy Fair this year included the category App Toys in its annual Best New Toy awards, while an app-enabled toy was named one of the winners of the ToyAwards hosted by the Nuremberg Toy Fair.

These toys combine real-world objects with changing images displayed on the iPad or smartphone, bringing both physical and virtual elements to children's play.

AppGear by Character Options, a winner at the London Toy Fair, combines physical objects such as model planes or a cardboard stage with footage displayed on a smartphone; the virtual images change according to the placement of the physical objects. So, for example, the environment displayed on a first person shooter game being played on the smartphone would alter according to the placement of physical objects on the related cardboard stage.

The toy Appmates by Spin Master, a winner at the Nuremberg Toy Fair Toy Awards announced February 1, combines physical vehicles based on the Pixar movie Cars with an app running on an iPad. As children move the vehicles across the screen of the iPad the device displays an ever-changing race track environment.   

The demand for such app-enabled toys was identified as a ‘hot trend' by toy retailer Toys R Us during the 2011 holiday period and the recent award winners in the UK and Germany suggest that the trend could continue to grow.

The last of this year's big three toy fairs, the Toy Fair in New York (February 12-15), also included app-enabled toys, including Appmates, in the list of nominees for its annual TOTY (Toy of The Year) awards the winners of which will be announced at the show.