Gregory Alan Bolcer (
Tue, 10 Feb 1998 11:30:58 -0800

Nothing if not cool. It's a shrink wrapped
robot war package.

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Robots for kids=20

Much of the early buzz at the show has centered around Lego's new
MindStorms product - a kit that lets children design their own
independently functioning robots, which they program using a PC that
downloads instructions to the robots via an infrared link. "For $200, you
get a kit that contains 700 different pieces," explained John Dion, the
public relations manager for MindStorms. "It works with all the existing
Legos blocks, and you can download project ideas from the Internet."=20

Displayed toys built with MindStorms included basketball-playing robots,
card-shuffling robots, robots that imitated the Mars Rover, and robot
intrusion alarms. Like many of the new toys at the show, MindStorms won=92=
hit stores until autumn in an attempt to become this year's big Christmas

Almost every showroom, it seemed, featured Star Wars toys under license
from Lucasfilms. These toys are expected to see a huge resurgence in sale=
as the new trilogy comes to theaters next year. Hasbro even had presenter=
costumed as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo giving buyers a spirited preview =
- -
complete with Wookiee impersonations - of the new action figures and thei=

While much of the action at Toy Fair is focused on the two largest toy
makers present, Hasbro and Mattel, smaller companies and individual
inventors are also given an opportunity to showcase their wares through t=
Toy Manufacturers of America's Incubator program.=20

Bill Stawski brought his Cash University product to the Fair in the hopes
of finding a partner like Intuit or Microsoft to license his
money-management system for kids and turn it into a hit CD-ROM. A former
stockbroker, Stawski decided to develop a product that teaches kids
financial literacy after seeing how his own children regarded money: "The=
thought money came from either the checkbook or the ATM," he said.=20

"This is where innovation in the toy industry comes from," Stawski said.
"Not the big companies, but the hungry young start-ups."=20

But the hungry young start-ups have the same hopes in coming to the Toy
Fair as their bigger competitors: they want to transmute fun into money.
James Wirt, the president of Tekky Toys, was demonstrating a prototype of
his Hip Hop Teddy Friend, a stuffed bear that recites a rap that includes
its owner's name. ("The Latest in Affordable Interactive Toys," reads the

Says Wirt, a lifelong toy inventor: "I'm here with the hope that some guy
will walk through that door and say, `Give me 50,000 units.'"=20

On Thursday, the Toy Fair expands to the cavernous Jacob Javits Conventio=
Center, where despite a 25 percent increase in space from last year, all
the available booths have sold out. "And there's a two-year waiting list,=
said Stawski.=20

Business, for the world's manufacturers of whimsy, is clearly booming.=20

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