This week, IBM released the IBM Watson Trend app that uses the power of IBM Watson to help you buy the hottest gifts for everyone on your list.
Watson isn’t programmed. It learns. It has been used for clinical trials, oncology and more and has the ability to learn a subject and then answer questions about it.
“Because IBM Watson understands human language, it can intelligently analyze millions of conversations across social networks, blogs, forums, comments, ratings, and reviews. Watson interprets language with all of the nuance of a human being—including content, context, and sentiment—at a volume that humans cannot.”
Forming a partnership between humans and computers, the IBM Watson Trend app can keep you up to date on the hottest trending items on your list this year.
The list updates continuously to ensure that you always know the hottest gifts, but these are the top 21 toys right now:
The Story Behind the Trend: Kids use the beloved Lego City bricks to build, maintain, and govern their own cities with alarmingly accurate detail. More realistic and less fantastical than other Lego themes, City sets appeal to boys and girls equally, tapping into the nationwide gender-neutral toy movement. City is truly a mainstay of the brand: its origins trace back to Lego Town, which was introduced alongside the first Lego mini figures way back in 1978.
Topics of online discussion include the latest City releases announced in October and the advent calendar, a favorite among families during the month of December.
Conversation around Lego City is over-indexed (disproportionately high) in Pennsylvania and Illinois.
“City is the oldest LEGO theme. It’s been around since before minifigures existed. It’s been running strong for more than fifty years now.”
Star Wars Legos
The story behind the trend: Lego and Star Wars have produced a steady stream of vehicles, ships, locations, and characters since their first Star Wars Lego sets were released in 1999. They’re still wildly popular. Star Wars Lego are listed for ages eight through 14, but children and adults alike share enthusiasm for the product. The latest seven kits were released on Force Friday, September 4, 2015, which elevated the volume of internet conversation, and with The Force Awakens coming to theaters on December 18, anticipation is still buzzing. In the mean time, there is talk of a worldwide Lego shortage due to the unforeseen popularity. A highlight of the September release? The updated Millennium Falcon.
This trend is widespread across the whole United States.
“Our entire family loves them – all 7 of our kids, my husband, and even I enjoy sitting down and building a set.”
The story behind the trend: Introduced in 2012, Lego Friends is one of the biggest successes in Lego’s history. The line doubled sales expectations in 2012, the year it launched, and continues to grow. Lego Friends is one of the available themes for the popular Lego advent calendar. However, in late October, Lego warned that even though their factories are running at full capacity, ‘We will not be able to deliver all of the orders coming from customers in the remainder of the year.’
So buy your Lego Friends sets early!
“My husband bought this for our daughter’s 7th birthday. She did this non-stop. She loved putting it together. It kept her busy for a long time. Awesome set.”
The story behind the trend: Minecraft, the huge video game phenomenon, meets Lego, a perennial favorite. The synergy seems self-evident: both are free-form building environments that reward imagination. The Lego Minecraft sets consist of 1-peg blocks, giving them a higher resolution feel than standard Lego sets. Most sets are recommended for kids aged 8 and up.
The Cave is recommended by users as the best starter set.
“The LEGO Minecraft The Snow Hideout was a great buy. My kid enjoys Minecraft and Legos, so this was a great buy to add to his collection.”
R2-D2 Astromech Interactive Droid
The story behind the trend: The classic Star Wars droid is now possible to own—and control! Reviews say the toy walks, spins, and turns its head realistically, and a major “pro” is it’s easy-to-use remote controller. Less pricey and more kid-appropriate than the new BB-8, R2D2 is also often declared the perfect gift for the Star Wars fan.
Online conversation is on the rise in response to the upcoming release of the next film, The Force Awakens, on December 18.
“What can I say, R2-D2 lives in my house now! My 2-year-old loves him! He follows him around, takes commands, and goes on patrol. The sensors are so good, this thing has never came withing [sic] 4 inches of a wall or a chair. It KNOWS when to turn around and go the other way. Well worth the money.”
The story behind the trend: The Lego Minifigure trend has recently been driven by the Series 14, a set of sixteen minifigures entirely devoted to the theme of Monsters which came out on September 1, in time for Halloween this year. The Series 14 set features a gargoyle, a mad scientist, and several zombies, and each of the figures is based on a never-before-seen character from the Lego universe. The back story for each of the minifigures is available online, and each is as inventive and original as the next. Minifigures appeal to adult collectors and children from age five and up, particularly those children who enjoy storytelling alongside their Lego building ventures. Lego minifigures come blind-bagged, such that you don’t know what you’ve purchased until after you’ve made the purchase. For this reason, there are many “feel guides” available online to help you determine what you’re purchasing. Conversation surrounding Lego Minifigures peaked in September and October due to the release of the Series 14, which has been extremely well-received.
Alongside conversation about the Monsters is enthusiasm for the minifigures included in other sets, namely: minifigures from the Big Bang Theory, Scooby-Doo, and Star Wars.
“We always love the mystery minifigs from Lego. Once a week we pick one up and the excitement it brings my soon-to-be-adopted, 8-year-old son is beyond measure.”
The story behind the trend: A wide range of PAW Patrol toys and games were inspired by the hit Nickelodeon series that stars a pack of six rescue dogs led by a ten-year-old boy named Ryder. The series first aired in 2013 and follows the PAW Patrol as it takes on high-stakes rescue missions to protect its community with a blend of problem-solving skills, high-tech vehicles, and lots of puppy humor. PAW Patrol toys please parents because of their educational value, while kids are delighted by the lovable protagonists. Online chatter spiked in August with the release of the LeapFrog Imagicard Learning Game, which integrates tactile cards with interactive iPad gaming.
The Imagicard Learning Game is popular among three- to 5-year-old boys and girls nationwide.
“This PAW Patrol game is a great example of high quality combination of learning and entertainment. There is a seamless blend of tactile card us and animated interactivity.”
The story behind the trend: Skylanders initially released in 2011 as the forefront of the toys-to-life video game movement. In this game, physical and virtual worlds merge when a player places a toy figurine on the “Portal of Power,” which allows the figurine’s character to be represented in-game. SuperChargers is the fifth and latest installment of the franchise and was released on September 20, 2015, which has been driving the trend as of late. This latest version introduces ground, water, and air vehicles in addition to the suite of characters included in previous versions. The game is targeted toward children ages 6 and up, who play the video game but also with the action figures on their own. Parents like the possibility of non-screen play, as many are concerned about the amount of time spent sitting behind a screen. This latest version also introduces the possibility for on-the-go play on iPhones and tablets, as well as multiplayer capabilities.
The game is well-reviewed, noted for the fact that fewer physical toys are required to access the majority of the video game, which is a notorious issue among toy-to-life video games.
“Skylanders Superchargers is a positive step forward. The addition of vehicles is more than just a gimmick. It opens up a new world of gameplay and it really is a breath of fresh air for the franchise.”
The story behind the trend: Recent momentum behind the Minecraft trend is largely due to discussion about the Gameband accessory. The Gameband is the first-ever Minecraft wearable that lets you take your Worlds with you and play Minecraft anywhere, anytime—on any computer. The excitement about the Gameband is high and still building.
Conversation around Minecraft is over-indexed in Washington state and Maryland.
The trend has almost five times more conversation from males than from females, and skews toward a younger audience.
“In schools, it is being used to teach all kinds of skills and subjects from math to foreign languages to social justice and fair trade.”
Disney Infinity 3.0
The story behind the trend: Disney Infinity is an interactive gaming platform where players can create their own stories and play experiences with all their favorite Disney characters. The new Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition game for the Apple TV is trending online, and in addition to the controller and the base, the bundle Disney is offering is Star Wars-themed with the Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic Play Set piece and the Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano figures.
“This is a fun interactive game that allows my child to use and have fun while using his huge imagination.”
The story behind the trend: Getting hit in the face with a pie. That’s the premise of Pie Face. (Whipped Cream sold separately). It’s fun and guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser for family fun night.
With a low price point, and simple, albeit messy, game play, Pie Face is starting to trend up in advance of this holiday season. Check out YouTube for some funny pie-faced moments.
“Pie Face is great for ages 5+ and is a simple game to play that brings friends and family together for laugh out loud moments. It was very easy to assemble and it does get a little sticky and messy, so we made sure to play before bath time. Assemble the game, add a heap of whipped cream, and start playing.”
Jurassic World Legos
The story behind the trend: Online conversation about the Jurassic World Lego sets peaked this summer during the release of the associated film. Talk about the sets, however, experiences a resurgence due to the popularity of the film, dinosaurs, and Legos amongst the toys’ target audience of children age 6 through 12, most of whom happen to be boys. For the May release, there were six sets of a wide range of price and complexity the biggest and most expensive set being the Indominus Rex Breakout. One of the highlights across the sets is the gyro sphere, which stabilizes so that the minifigure inside always stands upright. Other popular aspects of the sets are the helicopter in the Pteranodon Capture set and the T. Rex in the T. Rex Tracker set.
Online reviewers comment on how the Lego sets tie in nicely with the associated video game, which is driving the trend more so than the sets themselves. This trend is equally distributed across the U.S.
“The best part of this set has to be the gyro ball. It is very cool and if you’ve played the Lego Jurassic World game at all it toes in with that well.”
The story behind the trend: These figures turn consumerism into playtime, and without a major media property tie-in, they encourage free-form role-playing. Over 100 million characters have been sold worldwide since 2014, primarily to young girls. Lots of exclusive characters add to the collectibility factor.
“My daughter collects Shopkins and she loves to have something to do with them.”
Nintendo 3DS XL
The story behind the trend: Nintendo is launching a mall tour this holiday season featuring some of the top games for the 3DS including Yo-Kai Watch, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart 7. With the price of more powerful tablets & notebooks coming down will this be the final big year for Nintendo 3DS? With Nintendo announcing the release of several titles for iOS & Android in 2016, many people are speculating a shift in direction.
“As a travelling gamer, I thought I’d give the 3DS a shot. There are a lot of good games for it, battery holds a decent charge (~5 hours), easy to pause and resume on the fly, etc. I have not had a handheld since the original gameboy when I was a kid, this is much improved. :)”
The story behind the trend: A recent surge in interest is being driven by the new Moschino Barbie, which sold out in less than an hour, the new Hello Barbie, which uses the cloud to carry on a conversation with a child, and the recent end of the Socality Barbie account on Instagram, which skewered #authentic posts that are anything but.
MeccaNoid Personal Robot
The story behind the trend: This personal robot is trending amongst families with kids in the age range of 8 to 12 motivated to make, create, learn, and code. The different MeccaNoid models stand somewhere between 2 and 4 feet tall and require extensive set-up, but that’s part of the fun and experience of the toy itself. It came out very recently, in 2015, and its newness and capabilities are driving the trending online conversation. The robot can respond to pre-programmed voice commands, capture & mimic motion, and be controlled by your smartphone or tablet.
“Perfect toy for a child that likes to tinker and understand the functional mechanics of a toy. Once built, he is easy to interact w/ and can give your child a great sense of pride in having a toy that they put together from the ground up.”
Super Smash Bros
The story behind the trend: The latest release is Super Smash Bros for Wii U. Conversation is driven by the surprising November announcement that Cloud Strife will be appearing as a new character, which is unprecedented.
“Cloud has never appeared on a Nintendo system in as big a way as this. This unprecedented entry marks the first time a Final Fantasy character (or any Square Enix character, for that matter) has appeared in Super Smash Bros.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Action Figures
The story behind the trend: Online conversations continue to trend as Hasbro tries to keep up with Star Wars: The Force Awakens toy demand after the early September release. Families are enjoying figurine sets and collectibles, with a trending focus on the quality and attention to detail. Children (and adults!) are loving everything they can get their hands on.
“Having a blast with Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys! We got an exclusive 12-inch-scale Star Wars: The Force Awakens action figure set. I think it’s sold out, and it is beyond awesome.”
The story behind the trend: The blending of educational with engaging toys is a golden vision for parents as well as manufacturers alike. Cutting-edge technological advances are helping more traditional toys play in this mixed market more effectively. From Barbie to Lego… everything is getting some new #smart_tech this year. Since 2011, the LeapFrog LeapPad tablet series of games has been another holiday season mainstay, blending learning and popular characters with a gaming feel. This year, Watson Trend has picked up on the popularity of some new additions to the Leap Frog titles as well as the upcoming Android-based Leapfrog Epic. In addition, there’s lots of positive buzz from parents about how much fun their children are having with newly released titles.
The most prevalent discussions have been around PAW Patrol, a popular Nick Jr. television series, which is now available as Imagicard mathematical learning games for LeapPad tablets.
“The coolest thing (to me) about the LeapPad platinum, is that it is WiFi-enabled! Yay! This is a huge win, because it means that we can access the LeapFrog App store / Learning Library directly from the tablet, without having to connect it to a computer!”
The story behind the trend: You can find just about any character in the form of a vinyl action figure or bobblehead in Funko Pop’s collection, from star athlete Tom Brady to Hermione Granger, from nostalgic Lion King characters to the latest Star Wars droids. Marked by the signature smooth design, vibrant color, and endearingly enlarged heads, Funko Pop products are collected by adults and children alike, usually depending on the character depicted. Conversation about the latest Funko designs drives this trend, with the Harry Potter and Star Wars releases at the top of the list right now. Funko and Marvel joined forces in January to launch Marvel Collector Corps, a subscription box service in which figures, apparel, and accessories are shipped every two months to subscribers. It’s the first service of its kind. Over 10 million Funko Pop units have sold in the last three years.
“[On the Marshawn Lynch Funko Pop] Not only is this Pop figure adorable, but is also a great representation of the Seattle Seahawks! And the fact that Marshawn’s helmet is removable is even better.”
The story behind the trend: Lego Elves has taken off after it was introduced in early 2015 as a way for Lego to introduce their brand to younger girls. Online trends show rave reviews from parents who enjoy the play sets, such as the Treetop Hideaway and Magical Bakery, which are all highly recommended. And with the release of the fully responsive LEGO Elves experience on Nick.com, children can easily create their own epic quest with the elvish companions.
“On completion, the set is incredibly colourful and engaging, and the design of the leaf and flower arrangements manage to convey some sort of mystical and fantastical sense of magic.”