Check out the hottest toys for 2006
A doll that swims under water; a "top-secret" ELMO; the Easy-Bake oven get a makeover and Mattel has a new dancing Barbie.
By Parija Bhatnagar, staff writer

NEW YORK ( - Sony, Apple and all the other gadget pioneers better watch out. Eager to win back market share lost to hot gizmos like the iPods and PSPs, toymakers are fighting back with more innovative "tech toys" slated to debut this fall. was given a sneak peek at some of the latest creations that toymakers will unveil on Sunday, which marks the kick-off to the annual American International Toy Fair in New York.

Radica's "Digi Makeover" will hit stores this fall. (Price: $59.99)
What's Zizzle bringing out after
What's Zizzle bringing out after "Iz? It's something called "Zoundz."
Fisher-Price's 10th anniversary ELMO is being kept tightly under wraps unitl this Fall.
Fisher-Price's 10th anniversary ELMO is being kept tightly under wraps unitl this Fall.
Photo GallerylaunchSee more photos

What's the hot trend for 2006? More electronic toys.

Radica Games (Research), which hit a home run two years ago with its artificial intelligence-based question-and-answer gizmo called "20Q," is extending the product line using specific themes. The new versions of 20Q will be based on sports, music and movie trivia.

Both Radica and Hasbro are also keen to win over teen consumers. To that end, Radica's "Digi Makeover" targets fashion-crazy teen girls. It's a touchpad console with a digital camera that plugs into a TV set. Girls can take their own picture and use the touchpad to change their hairstyles and makeup.

Hasbro (Research)'s competing in this category with its own plug-and-play fashioncentric game called "Designer's World."

"There aren't a lot of products for teen girls in the videogame industry and we saw this as an opportunity for us," said Pat Rizo with Hasbro's games division.

With Designer's World, girls can create your own fashion line, pick their models and show their creations to judges from New York, Paris and Milan.

"This is very unique because the game teaches girls about the financials of the fashion industry," Rizo said. "She's given a budget and she has to work within it."

Jim Silver, editor of Toy Wishes magazine, said Radica's Digi Makeover was one of the most talked-about products when industry experts got a look at it last October.

"If the execution is done well and there aren't any major problem with it, I can see it being a big hit this fall," Silver said.

It's not cool if it doesn't beep and light up

Industry watchers said old-school toymakers like Hasbro (Research) and Mattel (Research) have finally woken up to the fact that kids are becoming more technology savvy at a younger age, and they're discarding their Barbie and G.I. Joes for MP3 players and camera cellphones.

Hasbro, the No. 2 toymaker after Mattel, won kudos from analysts last year for creating products like the I-Dog, which was palm-sized interactive robo-pet that plugged into an iPod or any other music system and would interact with the music.

The I-Dog was one of the best-selling toys this past holiday season.

According to Silver, other hit products included the VCAM video camera for kids from Tiger Electronics and Hasbro's ChatNow walkie-talkie system that enabled kids to also take digital pictures and send text messages within a two-mile radius.

The VCAM sold out in the first week of December, he said. Said Silver, 'Other companies looked at how well the I-DOG did and now everybody else wants to follow in that direction.

This year, Hasbro is expanding the I-DOG in two new colors, black and pink. It's also launching a line of smaller I-DOG pups this fall in four colors -- black, silver, pink and blue as well as a feline version called the ICAT.

Retro revivals

More retro toys are set for a comeback just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Toy consultant Chris Byrne said he's not surprised that toymakers are bringing back proven hits simply because it's less risky than betting on something new.

For example, Hasbro's relaunching the "Baby Alive" doll thirty three years after the company gave birth to the original doll that eats and poops.

Like the original, this new version speaks and laughs, but for the first time she also has facial expressions and eye movements, along with other life-like actions. And Jakks Pacific (Research) is bringing back "Troll " dolls in a variety of 3-inch and 5-inch figurines that will be sold in specialty stores.

Other highlights for this year include:

--A makeover for the Classic Easy-Bake oven: Set to debut this fall, the new oven looks like a contemporary kitchen range and features a plug-in heating element that no longer requires a lightbulb.

--Mattel will unveil the new technology-infused Princess Genevieve Barbie from its new DVD movie"Barbie in The 12 Dancing Princesses." Using a combination of Infra Red and Radio Frequency technology, the new 15-inch tall doll can dance to music from the doll's base. Mattel said Barbie can show girls new dance moves using both speech and movement cues.

--Get ready for a "top-secret" 10th anniversary ELMO. Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel, won't reveal what the new ELMO looks like until September but promised that it's something that's never been seen before in a plush toy.

-- Toymaker Zizzle's next music product after "Iz" is something called "Zoundz." It's an unusual music-making toy that allows kids to "create" their own music by moving different shaped pawns on to interactive "hot spot" on the sound board. You can plug you MP3 player into the system as use the Zoundz as a speaker.

-- MGA Entertainment, the maker of Bratz dolls, has a new "Little Mermaid" doll that actually swims under water.

-- Boardgame maker Cranium in the summer will release a DVD version of its popular Hullabaloo boardgame. Top of page

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