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Drones and robot pets steal the show at Tokyo toy exhibition

High-tech cements its place as the new norm for kids' Christmas gifts

Bandai’s dronelike AeroNova was one of the high-tech gadgets on display at Christmas Toy Fair 2018 in Tokyo. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

TOKYO -- Drones and other tech-heavy gadgets were high flyers at a recent Tokyo trade exhibition that showcased toys for the upcoming Christmas shopping season.

Arguably the biggest hit at Christmas Toy Fair 2018, which ended on Thursday, was AeroNova from Tokyo-based Bandai.

Like a drone, the toy is equipped with multiple propellers, but also has sensors that allow it to be controlled by hand motions. Measuring about 13 cm in diameter, AeroNova moves in the opposite direction of a person's palm. For example, people can play catch by pushing back at AeroNova as it approaches.

It can also perform preprogrammed movements by reading hand gestures. As AeroNova hovers, moving one's palms in front of the sensors in a specific sequence sends the toy flying off like a boomerang, or makes it revolve around one's body.

AeroNova will be available in Japan on Oct. 13 and will cost about 5,400 yen ($48).

Another favorite at the fair was Hello! Zoomer Miniature Dachs, a voice-controlled robot dog from Tomy, another company in Tokyo.

Equipped with Japanese-English voice recognition, the robot responds to its name and can sit, roll over and shake a paw on command as part of its repertoire of over 20 canine actions. It will even whimper if it doesn't receive enough attention and will let its owner know it needs to relieve itself, lifting its leg in typical dog fashion.

The robot pet will launch domestically on Oct. 27 with a price tag of 15,000 yen.

As drones and robots become more commonplace in industry, their costs go down, allowing consumer products such as toys to incorporate the advanced technologies more cheaply.

A number of toy drones are already being sold, and have created a niche market alongside radio-controlled toy vehicles.

Toy manufacturers are eager to incorporate drone and robot technologies into their products as a way to revitalize the stagnant domestic toy market, which has hovered at around 800 billion yen in annual sales over the past few years.

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