Tech takes over toy town

This year’s Toy Fair has used technology to breathe new life into old classics

By Helen Wood

The nameplate on Class 57/3 Thunderbird locomotive 57313 Tracy Island - named after the base of the International Rescue organisation in the 1960s Thunderbirds TV series.

Just as we’ve turfed out our tree, boxed up our baubles and teased tinsel out of our hair, Toy Fair erupts with a whole host of new playthings for eager kids to type into their e-letter to Santa. And this year, we couldn’t help but suffer from a touch of de ja vu, albeit with a sizeable tech upgrade.

First on the wish list has got to be Meccano’s robotic creation, Meccanoid. We can only assume that someone who works for Meccano watched Wall-E with his or her children, who pleaded for their own adorable if somewhat faint-hearted robot. Said employee then spent the last 7 years pushing it through tedious disputes over copyright infringements and voila! Meccanoid is the perfect childhood friend, with voice recognition and thousands of pre-programmed phrases to keep your sprog occupied for hours on end. It’s also cheaper and less hassle than inviting your child’s actual friends over for tea, though you will need to shell out an upfront one of fee of £270. Oh, and did we mention it looks a bit like Wall-E?

Next up is Jenga Quake. As if regular Jenga wasn’t heartbreaking enough, this version connects to your smartphone, thus sending unannounced vibrations through your teetering tower of bricks. Bricks that, looking at the pictures, appear to be made of plastic this time rather than wood. The smartphone connectivity we’re in favour of, but (and call us old fashioned) shouldn’t Jenga always be made of at least some form of MDF?  

The final toy which caught our eye was the result of some expertly timed PR efforts from ITV as it launches a new version of 60s children’s show, Thunderbirds. The famous Tracy Island toy sold out in the 90s to the extent that Blue Peter bravely stepped in with its own DIY version (made from toilet roll holders and Papier-mâché). Now, the island of our childhood adventures is back and it’s gone all futuristic. This version features a wristwatch, allowing those that are approximately 6 years and older to play an active part in the International Rescue operation. We’d have to see it up close of course, but imagine this counts as wearable tech in some form or another. Perhaps we’ll even see Thunderbirds fans Arctic Monkeys sporting it. Perhaps not. 

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