-- In this week's "Cybershake," we note how cheap computer chips are turning simple toys more techie. Plus, we take a look at a home video game that isn't designed for the typical couch potato player.
Techno-Toys for Girls and Boys?
For better or worse, kids' tastes for toys are changing. They want more sophisticated products at a younger age. Toy marketers call this trend age compression.
Techno toys, or products that combine play with microchip technology, are one answer. Tim Hall, founder and chief executive officer of Marietta, Ga.-based Prime Entertainment, is targeting "tweens" -- kids from 8 to 14 years old.
"They are not interested in traditional toys. They are a little bit too old for a Barbie doll or toy car," says Hall. "The lines for toys are blurring, and when you turn 7 or 8 or 9, you're into technology, you want a mobile phone, you want to instant message with your friends."
The Digital Blue Movie Creator is an example of the new wave. Priced at $99, this toy is a camcorder designed for a kid. "It works just like a regular video camera would." says Hall. The hand-held product comes with computer software that combines animation and sound effects to the video a child captures with the camera.
Hall says the Movie Maker is easy to use. A child "goes outside and maybe takes a video of her house or street, gets on a bicycle, rides with it, comes back inside and loads the software up and starts editing a movie."
Another Prime Entertainment product is a pair of binoculars with a camera built in. "So if you are looking down a field 1,000 yards away [you] see a binocular view, but whenever you want you, can just snap a picture," says Hall. "Then you connect it to your computer and download the images."
Plunging prices for microchip technology make this possible, even though most techno toys are more expensive than traditional brands. "If you look at the adult consumer electronics market you are seeing the prices of cameras coming down, almost by $100 a year," says Hall.
Robosapien is another example of cutting-edge technology inside a toy. Despite the $99 price tag, this mini remote control robot is one of the most heavily promoted techno toys of the holiday season. This toy combines more than 60 functions, including picking up small items, dancing and throwing.
Stephanie Oppenheim, author of the "2004 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio" guide to toys and games, says her young panel of toy testers got a kick out of Robosapien. "They loved this because it took them a while to program it and sequence it, as it picks things up."
But these kinds of toys can have drawbacks. A child who is not interested in programming it or playing with technology could find a Robosapien or Digital Movie Maker a waste of time.
Parents who are intrigued by clever new toys should consider a child's taste before they spend their money. "My advice is to talk to other moms," says Renye Rice of the Toy Industry Association. "Talk to other parents, talk to the kids' teachers ... just try to give your kids lots of diversity, and go after the things they are passionate about."
-- Richard Davies, ABC News
A Real Workout of a Video Game
What's hot for the Microsoft Xbox home video game system? Hundreds of thousands of players are loading up "Halo 2," a science-fiction shoot-'em up.
But what if you want to exercise more than your thumbs? Software programmers at ResponDesign in Portland, Ore., think they have an Xbox title that deserves a workout -- literally.
Its Yourself!Fitness is a "game" version of physical exercise and workout videos popular with fitness fanatics. Owners can choose from more than 500 exercises in yoga, pilates, cardio-fitness and other routines as well as other options. Using computer-generated 3-D graphics, the program displays a virtual personal trainer named Maya that then leads users through their personal fitness routine.
"You can choose how long you're going to work out, the type of music you want to use, the type of equipment you want to use and you choose where you want to work out," says Phin Barnes, chief marketing officer and co-founder of ResponDesign. "We have seven different workout environments and then Maya guides you through the workout."
Barnes says the company designed the software with women in mind.
"We feel that the reason why women aren't using games -- the stereotype that women don't use games -- is really not based on gaming itself, but it's based on the content," says Barnes. "And so providing the content that's relevant to their lives, we feel the step of going to put a disk in a DVD player versus putting a disk in an Xbox is not that big a leap."
-- Michael Barr, ABC News
Cybershake is produced for ABC News Radio by Andrea J. Smith.