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A mountain of toys: inside the strange world of Toy Fair 2015

We sifted through thousands of toys to find the very best

Around the start of Toy Fair, I realized just what made the experience so different from the tech shows, video game events, and comic cons I usually visit: it was the volume. At a tech event, most companies have just a handful of products. Some have just one or two. Even a gigantic company like Samsung might be showing off no more than 50 different devices in all: a dozen TVs, a handful of phones, a line of computers, and a handful of washing machines, smart home fixtures, watches, and (now) VR headsets.

But at Toy Fair, which is held every year in New York, even a small booth might have a dozen board games or walls full of action figures. Lego had exactly 331 new sets covering Star Wars, Batman, Jurassic World, Ant-Man, pirates, elves, spies, New York City architecture, and more. Toy giants Mattel and Hasbro have entire show floors to themselves packed with untold hundreds of toys. At Mattel’s private upper-level booth, Barbie meets Halo and elaborate Hot Wheels sets give way to smart cradles with remote rocking technology. At The Verge, our job is to sift through and pick out the most futuristic bits. I can only imagine what it’s like to cover everything.

So. Many. Toys.
So what was the future of toys in 2015? Two very different companies were making cloud-powered talking companions — "Hello Barbie" remembered your hobbies and gave you (dubious) career advice, and startup Elemental Path's Watson-powered dinosaur fired off math questions and cracked knock-knock jokes. (To put it mildly, we’re not making Turing-test-worthy toys just yet; kids can look forward to memorizing the exact phrasing and voice volume that will elicit a response.) Besides the classic superhero franchises, excitement started growing for Jurassic World, which is heralding an always-welcome boom of dinosaurs. And companies like Crayola and Hasbro are figuring out how to add digital twists to their offline classics.

But a lot of the show was defined by what wasn’t there: namely, anything based on the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Companies had to make do with enigmatic boxes and banners — Lego even seemed a little apologetic about the absence of Force Awakens sets on its wall full of Star Wars merchandise from the first six films. On the one hand, that means no hints at the most anticipated geek movie of the year. On the other hand, it does mean there's a whole other wave of toys to look forward to later this year.

Photography by Dante D'Orazio.

Correction February 23rd, 3:30pm: We originally referred to startup Elemental Path by its toy line, CogniToys.

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