Toy Fair 2018: the 10 best hi-tech playthings definitely too good for children

T3 visited Toy Fair 2018 for serious journalistic reasons, honestly...

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The massive Victorian greenhouse that is Kensington Olympia was transformed into a giant toy shop window this week as the toy industry gathered to show its wares at Toy Fair 2018. And the good news is that the "kidult" sector has been officially recognised as a growth market and so there are plenty of playthings on offer with a tech twist for big kids. 

Here's the top 10 grin inducers we eyed while perusing the show:

1. Clementoni Mind Designer

A voice-controlled robot that can draw

Reasons to buy
+Voice control built in+App allows simple coding

Let us manage those expectations firstly. The robot is called MIND and not controlled by said telepathic interaction. It is still very clever, however. Using voice control you state its name to wake it and then begin barking one of a multitude of drawing options after placing a felt-tip at its centre – think Jonny Five meets Spirograph. In addition you can connect it to an app and also direct it this way and that following the on-screen directions, and also start some simple coding to set it to pre-defined movements around your room.

2. Ravensburger Gravitrax

It's the marble run re-invented

Reasons to buy
+Simple setup+Plenty of accessories

There's plenty of tracks in the starter pack to get your ball-bearings rolling, as this is the classic marble run toy reinvented - a desktop accessory you didn’t know you needed. It sets up simply and speedily so you can get to the business end of dropping the sphere and getting the entertainment started, too. You can add to your track setup with additional rails and accessories such as a catapult that flings your ball skyward before landing back on the track, or place one of the magnetic cannons along your construction and marvel as the spheres are given a boost of energy as they make their way down.

Toy Fair 2018

3. Brio Smart Engine with Action Tunnels

An excellent app-controlled locomotive

The classic wooden train track set creator has been around a while and keeping it pretty traditional. Here though it has, in these new sets, created a way of keeping what Brio fans love about the brand yet enticing a new audience. First we had their Smart engine, an app controlled locomotive and now they’re bringing us action tunnels, each of which has the engine perform a different function – make sounds, shine lights, reverse or stop. Coming soon are the stations which include a train wash and a farmyard where the animals inside pop their heads out and bleat/moo/bark – you’re going to need a bigger desk.

4. Knex Thrill Rides

Build roller coasters you can ride in VR

Reasons to buy
+No queues for rides+Plenty to build in each kit

No one makes coaster kits like Knex, from six foot Ferris wheels to £1000 sets the size of a spare room - and now they’re infusing them with tech. Enough tracks inside to build multiple kits, once constructed, pop on your VR headset with the accompanying app and you can take as many virtual rides as you like around your miniature theme park build. All that for same price as a day pass and you’ll never encounter a queue. Sweet.

Toy Fair 2018

5. NERF Elite Digital Target

The perfect toy for inter-departmental score settling

Reasons to buy
+Built-in kickstand+Automatically keeps score

Settle office scores via the medium of NERF yet eradicate the risk of getting a foam dart in the face by using a digital target. Set it up on the kick stand atop the water cooler or mount it on the wall. You can play in solo mode as it keeps score, however, it really should be set to challenge mode for inter-departmental score settling.

Toy Fair 2018

6. Air Hogs Sonic Rocket

A stomp rocket that can really fly

Reasons to buy
+Can rise up to 200 feet+USB powered

Taking another popular play pattern and adding a techy twist is the Sonic Rocket from the sky powered plaything experts at Air Hogs. The satisfaction of powering a stomp rocket into the air is immeasurable, yet knowing that this one can soar up to 200 feet is equally as exciting. Powered up via USB, there is enough juice for over 40 flights, and when you set the rocket in motion its propeller will spin up to maximum rpm before releasing itself skyward. The journey back onto terra firma is cushioned by the durable foam materials its made from.

7. Recreation Turbo Jetts

Perfect for generating glares of envy from fellow pedestrians

Reasons to buy
+Fits any size of feet+Runs up to 10mph

Just about the most obviously visible sign that the kidult market is very much in the cross hairs of the toy creators – electric powered Heelys. Much akin to old school skates that strap adjusted to fit any sized feet, this footwear has one powered unit and the other one just wheeled and acts as the leading foot. Just step in, push the heel back, and enjoy commuting speeds of about 10mph – Those glares from fellow pedestrians will be those of envy.

8. DRX Drone X-Terrain

A drone-come-hovercraft cross-over

Reasons to buy
+H2O proof+Simple controls

The amount of drones buzzing about the Toy Fair stands show that the appetite is still there at the fun end of multi-rotored flying, but nothing stood out like this number from this DRX model. It’s the latest in its Hot Wheels collaboration range and the drone when attached to the wheel’s tilts forward to propel it forwards, and, when a water hazard is reached fear not, as the polystyrene wheels mean it’ll act in a hovercraft fashion. Simple controls and a no-nonsense approach to drone based play put this one on our very early must have hitlist.

Toy Fair 2018

9. Money Monster

A digital moneybox for big pocket money saving

Reasons to buy
+Shows internal balance with shake+Money can be deposited via app

A digital moneybox created to promote money management for kids - but we wager that another unit will follow closely for family savings - the Money Monster is a cracking machine. Teaming up with Santander the team behind the monsters have created a device that shows a kid’s current balance with a simple shake. Money can be loaded on directly via an app by family and friends, and, at the back of the monster lives a jet pack with a pre-paid card for use on the high street – savvy stuff.

10. Vivid Recoil

Multi-player blasting action enhanced by augmented reality

Reasons to buy
+Hot multi-player action+500-foot diameter playing field

For indoor and outdoor multi-player blasting action enhanced by augmented reality, this summers must have toy is going to be the Recoil. Jump into incredibly immersive battlefields with this  truly unique gaming experience – one that others are certain to follow. Compete in teams and view scores with the Recoil app. The game uses a Wi-Fi hub to broadcast a 500-foot diameter playing field for up to 16 players to duck, hide, and attack using the physical blasters that attach to the app enabled device.