[FUN] Old Toys Get New Tech

Category: Tech-News

Disney loves to recycle old movie plots because it’s cheaper than coming up with new material. Toymakers love to recycle old toys for the same reason, and also because parents tend to have fond memories of their favorite childhood toys and buy accordingly. Here are some old toys that have been reborn with tech touches for the connected generation...

Your Favorite Childhood Toys, Reimagined

Who didn’t have a Radio Flyer “little red wagon” back in the day? Even during the Great Recession, 1500 wagons a day were produced. Today, Radio Flyer sells also sells customized tricycles, scooters, bicycles, and a $499 scaled-down Tesla Model S electric car.

The mini-Tesla can be ordered with custom paint, a standard 130 Wh or an option 190 Wh battery, indoor car cover, vanity license plate, and even its own stop sign. Its top speed is 6 mph and that can be limited to 3 mph. For ages 3-8. (I can recall exceeding that top speed by a considerable amount in my old-school Radio Flyer.)

Cabbage Patch Kids were a huge hit in the 1980s. The soft, all-fabric, “needle molded” dolls were supremely cuddly. You couldn’t buy one; each was “adopted,” complete with adoption certificate and life story. The next-generation CPK Baby So Real, $100 when it debuts this Fall, is covered with sensors that enable the doll to respond to tickling and even games of Peek-A-Boo. Tiny LCDs make its eyes appear more lifelike, able to look around, blink, and respond to interactions with a child. More lights under its new plastic skin help it “blush” or show symptoms of a fever that can be “treated” with an interactive medicine spoon or feeding bottle. A smartphone app serves as a “baby monitor” and prompts the doll to giggle, laugh, and move around.

High Tech Toys

The View-Master stereoscope has wowed adults and kids with 3D images of exotic locations and animated characters since 1939. In the Fall of 2016, the View-Master DLX virtual reality viewer will hit the scene. Based on the Google Cardboard VR platform, this $30 toy requires a smartphone that is inserted into the back of the viewer. Instead of inserting cardboard-and-celluloid reels, users will download data files that can be rendered by the VR engine. Can't wait? The first-generation View-Master VR starter kit is on Amazon for less than $20.

Barbie’s Dreamhouse is getting smart. The Hello Barbie Dreamhouse coming out this Fall is WiFi-enabled, has a smartphone app, and comes with voice-recognition that lets kids interact with the house. “Hello, Dreamhouse. Bring the elevator down to the first floor” is one example. Kids can also tell the house to turn on the oven, adjust the lights, and get ready to party. (The chandeliers spin disco-style and the stairs turn into a slide.)

Cashless, But Not Crashless

To pass Go and collect $200 in the upcoming “Ultimate Banking” Monopoly game from Hasbro, you’ll have to swipe a plastic debit card through a battery-operated ATM. Hasbro is doing away with the colorful (and easily lost) wads of fake cash. The ATM will also keep track of purchases, properties, debts, and “Life Events,” a new random assortment of things like rent increases, medical bills, car repairs, etc. I wonder if they've included "Bank error in hacker's favor: Lose $200" or "Files Encrypted! Advance to the nearest Bitcoin dispenser and insert $500."

My personal pick this year has to be Anki Overdrive, a slot-less slotcar racing set. Track sections fasten together with magnets to form eight different configurations. Each car has its own artificial-intelligence “driver” with a unique set of driving skills, attitude, and virtual weapons. The cars are controlled via a smartphone app. Gameplay modes include Arcade, in which players race each other and the computer, and Campaign, in which various “commanders” must be defeated to unlock achievements and challenges. Yes, it’s like a video game with real-world crashes! The starter kit with 2 cars, 10 track sections, and 2 risers will cost $150.

Be wary of toys that are Wifi-enabled, and require your child to register with his, her (or a parent's) personal information. Last November, Vtech, maker of electronic toys, was hacked. Names, birthdays, email addresses, passwords, home addresses (and in some cases photos) of both kids and parents were exposed. Using a fake name, address, and birthday might be a good strategy when dealing with connected toys.

So, parents and grandparents, what was your favorite childhood toy, and is there a re-imagined, wired, or digitized version of it for today's kids? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below.

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Most recent comments on "[FUN] Old Toys Get New Tech"

Posted by:

26 Feb 2016

My trusty Radio Flyer red wagon from the early 1950s, used to haul garden supplies for the past few decades, finally rusted out 2 summers ago. If only new toys lasted as long!

Posted by:

John C
26 Feb 2016


My old Radio Flyer lasted about as long too. We too used it for hauling everything and anything including our siblings. :-)

Posted by:

26 Feb 2016

Buying electric cars & motorcycles for our children, and then we wonder why so many kids are fat.

Bring back the rugged pedal-cars from my childhood.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2016

Why the BOX the toy came in was always the favorite, it was so interesting, it could become anything I wanted it to be. It was what I was still playing with days after my birthday or Christmas :-)

Same for my children, and thankfully the grandchildren seem to be following the same path.

Long live imagination!

Posted by:

26 Feb 2016

This may be showing my age but my most memorable toy was Roy Rogers Nellybelle. If I remember right, it was a peddle car.

Posted by:

Don MacDonald
26 Feb 2016

I got a Radio Flyer during WW II. There was a rubber shortage. My wagon had metal wheels, but no tires. Zooming down the sidewalk at each groove there was a click like a train clicking on the rails. People could hear me coming.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2016

I am struck by the tie between two of your recent sendings - this one on toys that require smart phones, apps, etc. for a child's play and the other a few days back about items NOT to have WiFi or internet connections, such as that toothbrush. I.e., the excess.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2016

My great Niece and Nephew (3 and 5 years old) have an old school View-Master which they fight over(read dropped, thrown and otherwise banged around). Just imagine what will happen to a smart phone.

Posted by:

Lloyd Collins
27 Feb 2016

I feel sorry for today's kids. I used to play outside in the real world, imagination was the power used, and it was real fun. Sure technology is cool, but it takes away the imagination need to really have fun.

Posted by:

DBA Steve
27 Feb 2016

Cashless Monopoly. Really? Games, like Monopoly, can teach kids to count and even how to make change (a dying skill). My kids learned to count playing games, including Monopoly and cards and even a "kid friendly" version of craps.

The next step in Monopoly evolution might be a computer generated dice roll, the game will then automatically move your game piece, then game will decide whether you purchase the property or not, and will automatically deduct the money from your account. No debit card needed. The game can decide for the player how many houses to build and where. Depending on the speed of the processor, a game of Monopoly could be completed in a few seconds. What great fun!

Posted by:

27 Feb 2016

Radio Flyer! OMG! I wrecked mine countless times doing what my momma told not to do. She'd paint my scraped butt with iodine and cuss me out. I'd go back and try something else - more iodine.
I don't know how many flowers and bulbs, potting soil, mulch and whatever I carried in that thing helping gran and momma in their flower/garden beds.
It was beat-to-hell but It Was MINE. I want to see if they make one adult sized.

Posted by:

27 Feb 2016

I'm not sure what it was called but my grandpa had something he let my play with that was the fore-runner of View Master. There were cards you put in a holder and slid the holder in or out whike you peered through a 'viewer dingus' until the focus was right. There were two pictures on the card you put in the sliding holder thing that, I guess, were taken with a double-lensed camera as the images were 3D. Places I never imagined and the detail was fantastic in b&w. If you know what it was called, please post it here as Mr. Bob won't give out my Email address.

Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
28 Feb 2016

Patrick, we had one, too. Fun!! I Googled (3D "slide viewer") and found images of various vintage "stereo 3D slide viewers." Viewmaster rang a bell. I think that's what we had.


Posted by:

28 Feb 2016

Patrick, I enjoyed that 'forerunner' of the View Master, too, courtesy of my mother's parents. I think it was 'properly' referred to as a 'stereopticon'.

Posted by:

Edwin Chappell
28 Feb 2016

I still prefer proper slot5 car racing with Scalextric. There are always new cars (and trucks) coming out and there is now the option of Digital racing to bring it right up to date.

Posted by:

Charles Cochran
02 Mar 2016

I remember my version of the pedal car. I had a pedal tractor! I guess that has something to do with being from the midwest.

Posted by:

03 Mar 2016

These folks were so enamored with Radio Flyer wagons, they built an adult-sized one they could drive.


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