LEADER: When is a toy inventor not a toy inventor?

A meeting with Anki founders Hanns Tappeiner, Mark Palatucci and Boris Sofman sheds light on the different disciplines of some of the toy industry's leading innovators.
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Over the last few weeks, I've had the pleasure of meeting a range of toy inventors based all over the place.

Back at Nuremberg Toy Fair, I spoke with Bryan Benedict, one of Hot Wheels' hottest designers. A dream job for toy fans and motorheads alike, Benedict actually started out in the automotive industry designing life-size working cars.

After ten years designing human-sized cars, he got the call from Hot Wheels and set out applying the same skills to tiny versions in a role that allowed him a little more creative licence.

Sticking with Mattel, we've also recently had the pleasure of chatting with Manta Singhal, an engineer working in the toy space.

Singhal grew up in Glasgow and moved to London at the age of 22 to work as a design and development engineer for Hasbro. She has a BEng in Product Design Engineering, MSc in Integrated Product Development and a MBA, and she currently works for Mattel as a project quality engineer covering Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia.

Finally, last week I travelled to San Francisco to meet with the Anki team ahead of the launch of their latest product, Anki Overdrive.

The firm calls itself a robotics company, and due to the staggering amount of innovative tech underneath the hoods of those tiny cars, co-founders Hanns Tappeiner, Mark Palatucci and Boris Sofman see themselves as engineers rather than 'toy inventors' per se.

All are examples of creative types creating exciting product for the toy industry, but none of them boast disciplines that seem destined to lead to a career in toy development.

While the traditional view of a 'toy inventor' might be someone wrestling with an idea for a board game, or a creative drowning in the fluff of a prospective plush toy, it's worth remembering that there are tonnes of people from robotics, tech, engineering, and even automotive backgrounds helping to push some of the most impressive innovation in the toy space.

It's also worth mentioning that during my time in San Francisco with the Anki guys, when you're surrounded by that many creative people, your own creative juices are destined to start flowing.

And what with 50 Shades of Grey set to get cinemas across the globe whipped into a frenzy this Valentine's Day, I pitched a slightly more adult product to the Anki team: Spanki Overdrive. I've actually concieved a whole Hanki Panki Overdrive line but here is not the place to divulge*.

They seemed to like the idea so watch this space.

Have a good Valentine's Day!

(*Yes, Anki is actually pronounced 'Onki' but for the sake of one spanking joke I hope you just went with it.)

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