The dream robot of my childhood is right in front of me. A remote-control car drives on a table, stops and instantly transforms into a humanoid walking robot. It dances. It fires arm cannons. It does push-ups. It's a real-life Transformer... well, without the official Transformers licensing, that is.
This mechanical specimen is called the T9, made by Robosen Robotics, and it's one of the many robots landing in 2020 to wow kids, and kids at heart. This past week, I hunted for the coolest robots on display at the New York Toy Fair, the annual convention that gives industry insiders a first look at the hottest gifts for the holidays. The next wave of toy robots will be adding new party tricks, making dolls more lifelike and also encouraging kids to get more screen-free, offline play.
Here are some of the coolest bots coming for your children this year.
The T9 is both a remote-controlled vehicle and walking humanoid robot, transforming between forms instantly with a voice command or through app control. This isn't a typical toy: At $500 this robot is designed with 3,000 high-grade metal alloy parts and animated with 22 servo motors. It comes with about 20 preset animations, but can also be programmed to do its own moves.
It may remind you of the famous Transformers toys, but T9 is neither an Autobot or Decepticon. Shenzhen-based Robosen Robotics made this without any connection to the Hasbro-owned Transformers franchise. (Come on Hasbro, we're waiting.)
Ninja Bots by Spin Master
Smack talking with a spatula
These vicious battle bots may be small, but they have big personalities. Arm your Ninja Bot with your favorite weapon -- be it a spatula, plunger or tennis racket -- and the toy recognizes the weapon. Set the fighting mode with a few karate chops in front of the IR sensor, place it in front of an enemy ninja and behold the flying fists of fury. Ninja Bots will zip around smacking each other (after a bit of smack talk) and the first to fall loses the battle. Train them to level up and progress through four belt levels, unlocking new fighting styles.
Arriving in the fall, Ninja Bots costs $30 for one -- but you'll want the two-pack for $50.
Squeakee by Moose Toys
Man's best balloon friend
I've met a few robot dogs before, but never a robot balloon dog. Squeakee is bursting with personality, reacting to multiple touch sensors and your voice. But what gets me the most isn't just the cute tricks, it's the sounds. Every movement of his little body sounds like balloons rubbing and twisting. Put a pin in him and hear him deflate to play dead. (You murderer! How could you?) Or give him a drink from an air pump to watch him come back to life. Give him too much and he'll have to pee. You know, like typical balloon dogs. He also has his own balloon squeak toy you can use to train him.
Squeakee will float into our lives in October for $60.
MiP Arcade by WowWee
Shoot hoops with a self-balancing buddy
Remember MiP from 2015? WowWee evolved the self-balancing buddy bot with a suite of more than 20 app-enabled games, including a basketball toss game with an attachable hoop accessory. It can now carry objects including a can of soda, get up on its own when it falls and more. Or if that's not enough (because honestly I would just have it bring me soda all day long), you can also use the app to program MiP to do custom tricks and dance moves. MiP Arcade arrives in the fall for $100.
Really Rad Robots Prank Bro by Moose Toys
Some robots are good at being bad
Who said a good robot had to be nice? Prank Bro is the ultimate trickster bot, squirting water from an unsuspecting flower and fist punching with an extending arm. All controlled by remote, the Prank Bro moves fast for a quick getaway. Use the remote to speak through the robot in disguise. There's enough hijinks here to bother everyone (and every pet) in the house when it arrives in October for $55.
Botley 2.0 the Coding Robot by Learning Resources
No screen? No problem
There are ways to teach kids about tech without having them staring at a screen. Botley is a preschool toy that teaches the basics of coding without the need of a phone or tablet. Use the six-direction remote-control programmer to build sequences and get Botley to move up to 150 steps, light up its eyes in the dark or discover secret codes that turn Botley into different things, such as a ghost or train. The full Botley playlet includes facemasks, arms and obstacle pieces, available this summer.
Dancy Beats by Tomy
Get yourself a speaker with sweet moves
Normal Bluetooth speakers are boring. Get funky with a speaker that dances to its own music. Dancy Beatz is a disco ball with arms that flip around to react to the music playing. The arms can be programmed by manually posing, or through commands in an app, so you can give Dancy its own custom routine. Have a ball playing music from your device or from YouTube. How cool is Dancy? So cool that this fella comes with sunglasses when it arrives in August for $60.
Moji the Loveable Labradoodle
Sit, stay, speak with emoji
Worried about giving your kid a real pet? Skyrocket's interactive robot dog gives kids a toy pet they can care for and communicate with using emoji. Moji has a collar with a screen that shows what it's thinking with animated emojis. (If only all ?could speak in ?.) Moji reacts to voice commands, touch sensors and various toy accessories. And like any good doggo, it can do tricks like sit and beg, and it won't pee on the carpet.
Fifi the Flossing Sloth by Zuru
This sloth is more trendy than you'll ever be
I don't know how to do the floss dance, but this sloth does. This sloth may even do it better than you. It even does a butt wiggle. This is what today's top-notch robotic technology is being used for. Flossing sloth butt wiggles. Coming this fall for $25.
Mealtime Magic Mia by Spin Master
Finally, a robot that blows raspberries
Kids love to pretend play, and now there's a baby doll with super realistic facial expressions that can even blow raspberries with her wittle robot tongue.
The makers of Luvabella upgraded the tech for Mealtime Magic Mia. Feed her with a special spoon and bowl to mix different virtual food flavors, and see her face react with emotion. Maybe you'll get a yum. Maybe she'll pucker and say it's sour. Or maybe she'll tell you how she wants you to feed her like a pretend airplane. Kids better get used to robots telling them what they want! Mealtime Magic Mia shows us a glimpse of life to come with our future robot overlords. Oh, and you can burp her, too. Coming this fall for $60.