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It may not seem much like hard work, but for a dozen MBA students at the Tuck school at Dartmouth College in the US, choosing the top technology toys for 2011 is all part of the programme. They have been working with Eric Johnson, director of the Centre for Digital Strategies, to find toys that are innovative, fun and value for money.
Prof Johnson believes that toys can be a leading indicator of trends in other businesses and are especially attractive to entrepreneurs because of their short cycle and potentially large profits. Some 80 per cent of toys sold in the holiday shopping season are new products. “In a very short period of time - a few weeks in autumn - you can see product launch, roll-out, marketing, customer reaction and what happens in January when it’s all liquidated,” says Prof Johnson. “From a student’s perspective, it’s hard to beat that.”
The group chose 13 toys, all costing less than $100 each. Top of the list are toys that integrate video, including a Hot Wheels car with a built-in video camera, and the LeapPad, a tablet device with an integrated video camera and educational games. “That’s no small design challenge to put this technology in a $99 toy,” says Prof Johnson. “In many ways it’s a harder design challenge than what Apple and others face, because it’s got to be tough, durable and simple to use.”
Other top toys in the US include Barbie Hairtastic Printables, which enables children to create customised hair extensions for themselves and their dolls and Fijit, a digital alien creature capable of responding to certain spoken commands.