The hottest toys of 2016 have one thing in common: technology.
From a self-hatching interactive pet and a coding toy for toddlers to a modern twist on a classic board game, here are the toys worthy of your attention this holiday shopping season.
1. Self-hatching interactive pets
Let’s start with Hatchimals, which may just be the buzziest toy of the season.
Each plush creature lives inside a large plastic egg and eventually… hatches. By interacting with it, the Hatchimal comes out of its shell after about 30 minutes of continuous play.
The furry pet — which costs $60 — pecks at the exterior, loudly and with force, and ultimately breaks through. Like a real-life Tamagotchi, a Hatchimal needs to be taken care of. It’s behavior matures over a couple of days and weeks the more you play with it, transitioning from an infant to an adult.
2. DIY Lego drone kit
Flybrix created a DIY drone-making kit that lets ordinary Lego bricks take flight. It comes in two versions: A basic package ($189), which works with an app, and the deluxe version ($249). which includes a hand-held controller. Both are a few hundred dollars cheaper than most DIY drone kits in the market.
The kits include 56 small previously-owned Lego pieces collected from Lego wholesellers. The move is part of the company’s effort to make an eco-friendly toy that keeps Legos out of landfills.
3. Barbie’s high-tech Dreamhouse
Barbie has always had a glitzy Dreamhouse, but this year her pad gets a high-tech renovation.
Barbie now lives in a two-story smart house that connects to Wi-Fi and responds to voice commands. You can tell the house to do more than 100 things, such as open the door, turn on the fireplace, flush the toilet, operate the elevator and convert the staircase into a slide. Tiny sensors embedded into the floor detect where she is in the house, so the virtual assistant knows how to best respond.
Toymaker Mattel (MAT) pairs the home with a corresponding app, so kids create sound effects or control the built-in options, such as music or a crackling fireplace.
But the vamped up dollhouse isn’t cheap: It costs $300.
4. Coding for preschoolers
Fisher Price has introduced a coding toy called the Code-A-Pillar, which familiarizes preschoolers with simple problem solving and sequencing concepts.
The cute motorized caterpillar ($50) consists of color-coded pieces that separate and click together to make it move. It’s possible to send the Code-A-Pillar in different directions by rearranging its parts. With each new combination, it also lights up and makes sounds.
5. No-cash Monopoly
Wait. A Monopoly game with no paper money?
Hasbro’s new Monopoly Ultimate Banking Game ($25) is totally cashless. Instead of classic Monopoly money, the game has bank cards and an electronic banking unit.
The electronic bank conveniently keeps track of everyone’s fortunes by scanning play cards and property cards. This also means cheaters can no longer hide paper money under the board.
6. A robot with feelings
At just 2.5-inches tall, Cozmo is a robot with a soul — or, at least, its designed to have one.
By looking into its animated eyes, displayed via a small OLED screen, the robot shows emotion. Depending on the situation, it’ll be angry, bored, happy and even annoyed.
From toymaker Anki, Cozmo looks like Pixar’s Wall-E character. It can be programmed to move and interact with the user, too. Cozmo senses where you are, what you’re doing and plays games. Think of it like a tabletop puppy.
Priced at $180, the robot comes with a smartphone app that provides appropriate soundtrack to match his moods.
7. Smart desk for toddlers
VTech’s smart desk has an interactive desktop to help kids learn their letters, numbers and shapes.
The LED display pairs with five different cards, which parents or children insert into the desk, for real-time lessons. (Parents can buy eight additional packs of cards, which focus on things like nursery rhymes and vocab words.)
The desk ($55) also transforms into an easel and chalkboard.
8. You can “virtually” bring Play-Doh creations to life
Classic Play-Doh doesn’t take much to entertain kids, but now the company is taking it to another level.
Hasbro’s Play-Doh Touch Studio Set comes with shape cutters, other tools and a base for kids to make designs. It syncs up with an iOS app that brings those creations to life.
After placing the Play-Doh shape on the base and scanning it with the app, it appears as a virtual character inside a game. On the iPad, you can touch the character, make it dance and explore the virtual world. The app will prompt users to make certain shapes with the Play-Doh to unlock new features.
The set and app are available for $40, exclusively through Apple.
9. Smart R2-D2
Star Wars fans — both adults and kids alike — will have a lot of fun with Hasbro’ (HAS)Smart R2-D2, a programmable and interactive toy droid.
You control R2-D2 through an app, allowing it move around and spin its head. It also responds to your voice. Ask R2-D2 “What’s up?” and it responds with its iconic character sounds. The app features tutorials about how to program R2-D2 to move, dance and play sounds.
Smart R2-D2 ($100) also responds to hand movements. Clap or wave your hands and watch it become alert and move.
10. The wall-climbing Geckobot
Geckobots are robots that mimic the moves of a real gecko. They can even climb up walls and windows. But the best part is you assemble and wire it yourself.
The toy from Thames & Kosmos includes a battery-powered motor that triggers the robot’s legs to move back and forth. Meanwhile, an air suction system allows it to walk vertically up and down smooth surfaces like glass, plastic and whiteboards.
11. High-tech friendship bracelets
Friendship bracelets used to be made with strings and knots, but Jewelbots is making them very 2016.
The start up’s smart friendship bracelets ($69) encourage young girls to code. By using a smartphone or computer, teens assign friends a color and the bracelet will display the shade when that friend is nearby. It can also be programmed to send vibration messages, similar to Morse code.
For example, two vibrations might be programmed to be mean “meet me by the locker” or “I aced the test.”
12. A robot controlled by color
The dome-shaped robot has infrared sensing, as well as color and light sensors. Draw a pattern on paper with colored ink and it will move and trace it. It’s programmed it to stop when it senses one color and moves in a different direction with another color.
But put something in its path and Evo will detect it and avoid it. The lights and sounds can also be programmed.
Evollve’s $100 robot, which pairs with an app, can be converted into a traditional remote-control toy, too.
13. AI-powered Hot Wheels
Hot Wheels now makes AI-enabled smart cars.
Mattel’s AI race system ($100) features two cars fitted with smart sensors. As a car rounds the 20-piece track, it reads coded patterns embedded onto the bottom each piece, thanks AI technology baked into the controller.
The controller — the system comes with two — syncs up with the track. It then monitors how many laps each car has completed and helps it stay the course.
The track itself can be arranged in 40 different racing layouts.
14. Selfies + karaoke
Moose Toys’ Selfie Mic blends two trends in one: Karaoke and selfies.
It’s essentially a $25 selfie stick with a working karaoke microphone, ear piece and music app.
Kids can record themselves lip syncing to songs and even create their own music videos.