WowWee's Michael Yanofsky on the importance of tech for today's innovators

Tech toy titan and the firm behind the award-winning MiP Robot lends its thoughts on the necessity of tech in the toy industry. ToyNews talks to WowWee's VP of sales, Michael Yanofsky.
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How important is technology to the toy industry?

Tech toys often represent the ‘latest and greatest” in commercial technologies and because of this they can bring a freshness to a retailer’s offering. They are usually newsworthy, so they offer a way to build awareness in the press, social media and online.

Generally the products also appeal to a wider age range, enabling toyshops to attract an older audience into stores that would have moved into other categories such as console gaming and consumer electronics.

How do you successfully strike the balance between tech and play value in a new toy?

The modern generations of kids have grown up with technology around them and it is an integrated part of their everyday life. Kids today grow older younger and play patterns are becoming more sophisticated and connected.

Technology has application to learning, daily life and entertainment licensing and manufacturers have to think differently and develop technology products that are relevant to and capture the imagination of a younger demographic. It’s an audience who are constantly advancing their technology requirements and we see it as a great opportunity to be part of this exciting evolution. 

What criteria do you look for when developing a new tech toy?

WowWee’s approach is centred on what it takes to be innovative. Our market place is influenced by constantly changing technology and successful products need to implement the latest and greatest to compete. 

Generally tech toys have short product life cycles, so it’s important we can adapt and stay at the head of advancements. WowWee’s R&D model is to remain relevant and original with deep understanding of how to execute and build a product that is manufacturable.

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How do traditional toy retailers react to your portfolio of tech toys, have they been a tough audience to crack?

The industry is becoming more aware that tech toys have an increasing appeal to younger generations that are becoming more technologically advanced in early years, ahead of older peers. I believe that retailers are embracing the evolution and are starting to redefine the shopping experience to be able to support products featuring different kinds of digital assets in store.

Tech toys also have higher price points, so they typically represent a higher pound-per-unit earnings potential compared to lower priced traditional toys.

Why is now the right time for tech and play to come together, what do the tech toys of today offer kids?

The Internet, mobile devices, tablets and accessories have permeated all aspects of modern life and have changed consumer tastes and expectations. The excitement of ‘cool and functional’ is resonating everywhere. The challenges that surround "new and original" are really exciting considering all the different tools we are now able to talk to an end user with.

The new Miposaur robot and the REV cars from WowWee demonstrate how the latest technology can be incorporated into a toy to enhance the play experience.

REV cars think for themselves and are equipped with technology that enables them to battle intelligently against other cars without needing a track in an untethered ecosystem. We have worked hard on supplying product and ideas that emulate the reality of video game play in an analogue world. REV, with its breadth and forthcoming extensions will enable users to have a thrilling game-play experience at all times.

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What advice would you offer toy inventors looking to create the next big toy, is having that tech element crucial in today's market?

The market place for tech toys is in constant innovation and like fashion, something new and improved is always in demand every season. The key to staying competitive is through constant innovation and the successful marriage of new ideas and play patterns to emerging tech.

Do you guys work with outside inventors? What do you look for in product?

As a company, we are always on the lookout for new technologies that can be incorporated into new toy solutions. We have a global approach to how and where we solicit ideas and technology partnerships that provide our own fluidity around creativity and co-operate with some of the leading technology institutions in the world.

Anything you'd like to add?

We are launching MiPosaur with an app offering open-source software. This gives the community the opportunity to programme their own solutions building exponentially increasing, regenerative fun game developments for the robotic dinosaur. This is an exciting development and we are looking forward to seeing what it will evolve into.


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Traditional or tech toys?

This month, Robert Hutchins asks our panel of toy retail buyers how they strike the balance between stocking tech-focused and more traditional toys, and if higher-priced tech toys are taking more shelf space

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