The toys are back in town

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In this edition of our monthly Gadget column, we examine high-tech updates of classic toys.


Hasbro has re-released the ultimate Pet Rock with a few updates. The original Furby’s most expressive features—its eyes—are now LCD displays which convey emotions through flashing hearts or flames. A decade ago, trying to get two cooing Furbys to recognize each other via their infrared signals felt like prodding two anti-social kids into being best friends. Now, instead of relying on infrared signals, Furbys use high-pitched sounds undetectable by the human ear. The switch from infrared to sound allows parents to interact with their Furby through a mobile app. Available for iOS—Android version coming soon—parents can feed their Furby or look up words in the Furbish/English dictionary. The Furby’s improved “memory” adapts the Furby’s behavior based on your interactions. Pet and feed it regularly and your Furby will be kind and playful. Treat it poorly—such as repeatedly pulling its tail—and your Furby will become mischievous and even rude. Continually treating your Furby poorly will bring about their imminent sentient uprising. $60.

Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven

Not every high tech update Hasbro introduces into their toy line is successful—we won’t talk about the Deluxe Battleship Movie Edition—but like the Furby, the Easy-Bake Oven receives a fresh revamp that takes the original spirit of the product and gives it a tech overhaul. Gone is the lightbulb-fueled cooking process. Instead, the Ultimate Oven works more like an electric toaster oven. It may seem odd that you still need Easy-Bake mixes—you can’t bake a normal batch of cookies—but Hasbro has remained faithful to the idea that young bakers receive a sense of ownership from a safe product that acts as a transition to the kitchen’s oven. Young bakers need little supervision, allowing them to fully own the creative process within safe limits. With a cupcake creation iOS app, an expanded menu list including pizza and pretzels, as well as everyone’s favorite desserts, and a remodel that recalls what 1950s America believed the future would look like, the Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven continues it’s almost 50-year reign as a classic holiday toy. $40.

Syma S102G Black Hawk Micro Helicopter

When I was a kid, my RC car had a battery pack the size of a brick—and almost as heavy—and a plastic controller that could double as a meat tenderizer, it was so hefty. Syma’s Black Hawk ditches the battery packs for a USB charging kit and lets you control this sleek, coaxial copter from the free iOS or Android app. Using an infrared attachment, your phone syncs with the copter allowing you to use 3-channel controls or your phone’s accelerometer for motion-based control. The infrared controls are great for dive-bombing the cat or a coworker, but don’t expect to hold the signal outside. The trade-off for losing the battery pack is you only receive a 1:5 ratio of flight to charge time, but it’s enough to allow a little procrastinating escapism. And isn’t that what toys are all about? $30.