Children’s Technology Review and Living in Digital Times Names Nine Kids’ Products and two pioneers as winners, the KAPi’s recognise the most innovative games, software, devices and apps for educating and entertaining today’s digital kids.
More than 500 children’s technology products were evaluated 2019 KAPi Awards, all released in 2018. An independent jury of industry and editorial experts under the direction of Warren Buckleitner, Editor of Children’s Technology Review, all looked for products that raised the bar for innovation and design excellence.
The 2019 KAPi Award winners:
Best Hardware: Echo Dot Kids by Amazon.com. Alexa, what’s the best smart speaker for kids? Don’t bother answering, it’s the Echo Dot Kids, with baked in parental management tools so you can customize your speaker for your child, and not the other way around. The device puts 300 Audible books, like Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan, thousands of songs, kid-favorite games and COPPA compliant kid skills, all awaiting your child’s verbal command.
Best Overall Tech: Nintendo Labo by Nintendo
Who would’ve thought sheets of stamped cardboard could be so fascinating? Nintendo Labo merges maker play with screens. Jurors called it “a gutsy, slightly insane merger between concrete and abstract that reminded us all how screens can support any type of play.” Every aspect of this project has been expertly produced, resulting in a level of innovation that our jurors applauded.
Best Maker Spirit: Itty Bitty Buggy by Microduino, Inc.
This CPT (Code Programmable Toy) lets you program a buggy to trace lines on a map and recognize colors and voice commands via bluetooth, using your own device as a remote. Jurors loved that the kit supports mainstream computing languages, including Scratch, Python and Arduino. The LEGO compatible parts increase the creative possibilities even more.
Best Robot: JIMU Overdrive Kit by Ubtech
What’s 8 inches tall, can walk, dance and obey your commands? This year’s jurors liked the possibilities offered by the most recent addition to the JIMU line, with 400 parts, speedy servo motors and a variety of sensors for light and motion.
Most Novel Tech: When In Rome by Sensible Object
It was only a matter of time till some creative game designer leveraged the power of Amazon’s Alexa into a game. When in Rome is an engaging trivia game for the whole family that relies on Alexa to provide clues, guide game play and add real-world information. Moreover, because the game can be continually updated, it’s different every time it’s played. Jurors liked the ability to keep the game different every time it’s played.
Best Mixed Reality: Untamed/Battle ARena by WowWee and HappyGiant
As any toy-shopping parent will tell you, in 2017 WowWee’s Fingerlings were a big deal in the toy world. This year, Untamed Dinosaurs take the play a step further with the ability to step into Augmented Reality, thanks to an accessory app. Jurors liked the new play possibilities added onto an already solid toy.
Best Educational Product: Snap Circuits BRIC Structures by Elenco
The classic Snap Circuits have been mixed up with a compatible set of construction bricks. Jurors were impressed by the diverse projects and open-ended potential of the play.
Best Physical Play: Nerf Laser Ops Pro by Hasbro
This is quite simply the best home laser tag system we’ve seen. The sophisticated design allows players to blast an IR beam as far as 300 feet. Add a smart device for real-time battle “intel,” solo play mode or GPS tracking of teammates and opponents. This encourages active, play and fun on the run.
Best Video Game: Starlink: Battle for Atlas by Ubisoft
This is a deep, narrative-based, open world game that combines physical toys with the story. Connect pilots and ships to the game controller to see changes in the game instantly. The combination of physical and digital play is well done and very much on trend for today’s kids.
The 2019 KAPi Award Honorable Mentions:
StoryBall: Jurors liked the physical and digital open-ended story play that uses games, stories and challenges to encourage children to play using their bodies instead of a computer screen.
Novel Effect: This great new literacy product brings families together with reading, storytelling magic and sound effects.
Lifetime Achievement: Fred Rogers (Posthumous)
This is the year of Fred Rogers for good reason — two movies, a biography and a U.S. postage stamp. Beneath Rogers’ quiet demeanor was a fearless advocate for quality and ethics in children’s media. In this age of data harvesting, pop-up ads and in-app purchases, the KAPi jurors recognize that every media producer needs to put a little of Fred Rogers’philosophy into every project. Just as important is to honor the individual child and take care of every child as if he or she was your own. The 2019 KAPi jurors voted unanimously for Mr. Rogers to receive this year’s award. He’s no longer with us, but his message of universal acceptance of every child still resonates.
Pioneer: Jesse Schell, Schell Games
Teacher, author, speaker, but most importantly a dreamer, Jesse Schell is a self-admitted “VR-aholic” who teaches in the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. Jesse does more than teach, he makes — a point that was noted by several of this year’s jurors. Schell Games, his Pittsburgh-based studio, has been the force behind many noteworthy products including Happy Atoms, a 2016 KAPi winner, and I Expect You To Die, a VR spy thriller.
The judges for this year’s KAPi Awards consisted of a panel of leading journalists and publishers:
- Warren Buckleitner, Children’s Technology Review
- Amanda Gummer, Fundamentally Children
- Ahren Hoffman, ASTRA
- Christopher Byrne, Independent analyst and author, aka The Toy Guy®
- Mary Couzin, Chicago Toy and Game Group
- David Kleeman, Dubit
- Dan Nessel, Dad Does.com
- Robin Raskin, Living in Digital Times
- Reyne Rice, International Toy Trade Magazine Association
- Mark Schlichting, Noodleworks; creator of Broderbund’s Living Books
- Tonda Bunge Sellers, Living in Digital Times
- Valerie Vacante, Collabsco