Apps add electronic twist to familiar toys

Consumer Reports News: March 08, 2012 05:08 PM

Visiting the annual American International Toy fair in New York last month I found myself wondering: Was this a toy fair or an electronics expo? There was no shortage of technology here!

We saw the Hasbro Lazer Tag blasters (pictured here) which allow you to download a free Lazer Tag app to your iPhone or iPod Touch then insert your device into your blaster. You can play against a virtual enemy and use it to keep track of all your progress. A Blaster is $40 or you can get a two-Blaster set for $70. Out this summer.

Board games such as Monopoly and Life have also incorporated “apps” into their traditional games. For example, you can use your iPad are as a virtual spinner in Life zAPPed and as a virtual credit card reader to “pay” for your hotels in Monopoly zAPPed. Both are $25, the zAPPed version of Life is out this spring and Monopoly will follow in the fall. (See more on Hasbro ZaPPed games.)

The appropriately named Apptivity line from Mattel continues to morph physical and digital play with their Hot Wheels Apptivity assortment. The set will include two special Hot Wheels cars that interact with an iPad screen. You download the app, and the iPad screen becomes a roadway that moves under the car with fun obstacles and challenges as you steer the car around the screen. Don’t worry, the cars won’t scratch your screen. They will be available in May for $20. (See more on Mattel Appivity.)

SpinMaster puts their spin on application-based games with the Appfinity AppDrive. Put the pedal to the metal after you download the app and insert the iPhone or iPod into the wheel console. You can fly or enjoy road racing. Priced at $20 and out this fall.

On to the Barbie Photo Fashion Doll. it’s a doll—no it’s a digital camera—wait it’s both! Take a snapshot and the image appears on Barbie’s t-shirt. Out this August for $50.

Speaking of cameras, the Action Shot Camera from Jakks Pacific will prove useful if you or your young ones likes sharing and/or capturing your adventures on video. This is a mini camera that you can attach to your gear of choice (i.e. skateboard, bike, helmet, etc) and catch up to 20 minutes of video and then upload to view and share with your friends. Price is $50, coming out this fall. (An HD version will also be available for $100.)

And yes, there are still toys that require no electricity! A good example is Lego Friends introduced last January. This is a more girl-friendly line of building sets that feature additional colors and figures. There are 22 new play sets that range in price from about $8 to about $70.

Check out our buying advice (free) and Ratings (available to subscribers) for a wide range of products for babies and kids. And follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

—Ina Gozenpud

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