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Educational Toys and Safety Devices Dominate Guangzhou Kids Show

Smart products aimed at helping children learn while they play proved the most in demand items at this year's Guangzhou International Kids Industry Expo, although child tracking devices and high-comfort clothing also proved popular.

Photo: Smart devices were the order of the day at the Guangzhou International Kids Industry Expo.
Smart devices were the order of the day at the Guangzhou International Kids Industry Expo.
Photo: Smart devices were the order of the day at the Guangzhou International Kids Industry Expo.
Smart devices were the order of the day at the Guangzhou International Kids Industry Expo.

Toys that teach were the order of the day at this year's Guangzhou International Kids Industry Expo. Overall, smart products designed to encourage children to learn, as well as to help develop co-ordination and social skills dominated the event. Health and safety was another key theme, with a number of exhibitors highlighting products to help parents keep track of their children remotely, while others forefronted measures to protect the eyesight of the young from the over-use of electronic devices.

In truth, though it was smart products that dominated this year's Guangzhou expo, with the majority of exhibitors keen to promote the educational benefits of their products. In line with this, a huge number of children's watches, learning devices and educational toys were all on offer, with particular importance being attached to interactivity and parent-child communications.

Many exhibitors believed that the toys and electronics that lack any educational dimension will inevitably fall out of favour with parents. At the same time, the clear implication of the two-child policy is a massive expansion in the children's products sector.

Fun and Educational

One company keen to highlight the educational aspects of its products was Putao Technology. The Shanghai-based business specialises in products for children aged 3-12 and, this year, was promoting its Tanshuohao ("Explorer") range, an electronic toy that combines hardware with software.

Explaining its appeal, Wang Chunyang, the company's Sales Manager, said: "Today's children unavoidably come into contact with a number of electronic products, notably iPads, video games and smartphones. Our starting point is in guiding children as to how to better interact when they play games. Through the Explorer, we hope to promote the process of learning while playing."

Photo: Raybox: Animated antics for kids.
Raybox: Animated antics for kids.
Photo: Raybox: Animated antics for kids.
Raybox: Animated antics for kids.
Photo: Cartoon fun for a junior show-goer.
Cartoon fun for a junior show-goer.
Photo: Cartoon fun for a junior show-goer.
Cartoon fun for a junior show-goer.

Explorer is based on an iPad and comes with a sensor, a Rubik's Cube, a set of tangram puzzles and two hand drums, as well as a variety of apps. Courtesy of its image recognition software, the movements made by the player in the play area are shown in real-time on the iPad screen.

Wang said: "In the case of the tangram puzzles, for instance, we have designed a little fox character – Taotao – who encounters all kinds of obstacles in the woods. The player can help Taotao overcome these obstacles using the tangram pieces. After the player has put a tangram piece into position and pushed it into the identification zone, the sensor automatically recognises it and Taotao will be able to get over the obstacle if the correct piece was chosen.

"We have also added many philosophical concepts to our game and there are different ways to overcome many of the obstacles. Our object is to make children understand the relationship between cause and effect and learn that different 'causes' may lead to different 'effects' and that not every way is a way out."

The company also had on offer Fantasy Garden of Bandari, a musical game that features more than 70 well known Chinese and foreign songs and can work in solo and duet modes. In the duet mode, parents can sing with their children and enjoy shared family activity. The company also has Rubik's Cube games for training children's hand-eye co-ordination and three-dimensional reasoning.

Photo: Putao’s Painting World in action.
Putao's Painting World in action.
Photo: Putao’s Painting World in action.
Putao's Painting World in action.
Photo: Part of the Raybox product range.
Part of the Raybox product range.
Photo: Part of the Raybox product range.
Part of the Raybox product range.

Based on the Explorer hardware, Putao has also developed the Taotao Shijie ("painting world") suite of software, which allows children to paint famous buildings and animals in any colours they like. Demonstrating the painting process, Wang showed how easy it was to apply paints on a peacock card, with the iPad sensor then scanning the painting process and converting the picture in to a three-dimensional on-screen representation. After completing the painting, the on-screen bird fans out a train of iridescent feathers. The software also helps children learn about peacocks' behaviour and habitat.

Beijing Raybox Animation Technology was another exhibitor seeking to help children learn while having fun. The company's original animation series Tuteng Lingyu ("Totem Territory") will begin airing this summer. According to Qi Ji, the company's Senior Licensing Manager, China is a huge market for children's products, while animated films remain the favourite genre of many youngsters.

Connectivity for Fun and Safety

Digital connectivity was also a common them on many exhibition stands this year. One such product that caught the eye of many visitors was the AI Bird, a cheeky, lifelike and a loveable parrot produced by Shenzhen-based iParrot. According to Sun Tao, the company's General Manager, the toy uses voice recognition technology to allow owners to train the bird to speak, sing and answer questions. It can also make funny movements or sounds when touched and twitters in response to whistling.

If a flock of several parrots are bought, they will automatically link-up. This will see them capable of giving a variety of performances, including telling stories, reading riddles, reciting Tang poetry, and singing English songs.

Users may also use a smartphone app, developed by iParrot, to 'raise' the bird, with the bird's strength increasing the more it is fed and looked after. They may also pick an item on the app's song list and instruct the bird to perform. The product is priced at about Rmb100, with the company reporting orders for more than 500,000 units from overseas buyers.

Photo: iParrot’s AI Bird.
iParrot's AI Bird.
Photo: iParrot’s AI Bird.
iParrot's AI Bird.
Photo: An Abardeen smartwatch for children.
An Abardeen smartwatch for children.
Photo: An Abardeen smartwatch for children.
An Abardeen smartwatch for children.

Another smart item on offer was the Abardeen watch, the latest innovation by Shenzhen's Continental Wireless. According to He Zhenxing, the company's Brand Manager, its KT04 smartwatch can be programmed with up to 60 phone numbers, while a blocking function prevents the user from connecting with anyone not on the list.

Parents can also install a smartphone app linked to the watch in order to locate their children. This will inform them when their children arrive at kindergarten or school and they can set geographical boundaries, with the watch automatically notifying them if their children wander outside the limits.

Safety and Comfort

Despite the headline grabbing appeal of many digital devices, safety and comfort remain paramount for most parents. Looking to capitalise on this He said that the Abardeen smartwatch comes with a built-in SOS button that children can press for help when in danger. If the wearer is hit by something or falls, the watch can also detect the incident and automatically inform the parents.

As children's electronic products become more common, though, there is increasing awareness of the damage they can do to eyesight and posture development. In a bid to counter these problems, Wang said that Putao's Explorer was designed to be operated at a distance of 50cm in order to protect children's eyes.

Photo: Smartwatch apps installed.
Smartwatch apps installed.
Photo: Smartwatch apps installed.
Smartwatch apps installed.
Photo: Xingtong’s range of high-comfort clothing.
Xingtong's range of high-comfort clothing.
Photo: Xingtong’s range of high-comfort clothing.
Xingtong's range of high-comfort clothing.

In terms of clothing, many exhibitors were keen to emphasise the comfort element of their own garment ranges.  Majoring on this particular element was Xingtong, a Dongguan-based textiles manufacturer. According to its Business Manager, its garments are made of linen-like pure cotton twill, a functional fabric said to be breathable, absorbent and crease-resistant. The fabric is soft and will not change shape easily. The product is also made using only high quality eco-friendly reactive dyes.

Overall, Xingtong produces a wide variety of comfort-oriented products. These include kindergarten uniforms, teachers' uniforms, parent-child fashion, schoolbags and baby cotton quilts.

Other notable products at the fair included a smart card from Shenzhen's Yunbao, which can receive homework sheets and other notices from teachers. There was also the Fwatch from Zhangmeng, Hangzhou software house, which can tell stories and give weather information. For the more safety conscious, it was also worth checking out Guangzhou-based Nohoo's range of children's bags, said to be solely manufactured using materials guaranteed not to have any toxic effects.

The Guangzhou International Kids Industry Expo 2016 took place at the Guangzhou Nan Fung International Convention and Exhibition Center in mid-March.

Xing Bin, Special Correspondent, Guangzhou

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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