Not surprisingly, tech designed to help people weather the pandemic was the hot trend at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Everything from thermometers and robots that clean offices, to wellness and at-home office equipment dominated buzz at the virtual conference. But in the mix of pandemic gadgets, there were also some new products and trends that are starting to trickle down to the kids market.
Almost 2,000 companies launched new tech at this year’s virtual event, which ran from January 11 to 14, and heavy-hitters such as Sony, LG Electronics and Panasonic were exhibitors. But it was a far cry from the live expo in Las Vegas, where more than 4,400 exhibitors traditionally show off their new wares to 170,000 attendees.
Nevertheless, here’s a roundup of three of the biggest trends to come out of CES 2021.
Kids are less active because of lockdowns, and this has families (and the industry) worried. Techcos are tackling the issue with new movement-focused and meditation/mindfulness products to help get kids in better physical and mental shape.
France’s Team8 launched a new connected watch (pictured, top) for five to 12s, featuring a superhero who evolves as kids complete physical activities. The watch also monitors kids’ health, and can give notifications to remind them to take medications. Smartwatches are nothing new, but tackling kid health amid the pandemic was, understandably, a hot topic at CES this year.
On the wellness front, India’s YogiFi rolled out a smart yoga mat with sensors that give feedback on posture. New York-based studio Styll Meditation, meanwhile, is expanding into meditation content for kids ages five to 12 for the first time with Styll on Demand, a subscription-based meditation lesson service. These new offerings come as the kids entertainment industry, including Disney+ and Netflix, turns its attention to producing meditation content.
VR’s big year
VR continued to permeate CES, but kids were a focus for the tech’s biggest players this year.
Panasonic unveiled new VR glasses that are smaller, lighter and less bulky than other brands, and kidcos are starting to lean on VR for edtech. Pittsburgh-based VR game developer Schell Games, for one, got into the kids education space in a big way late last year with its new HistoryMaker VR title, which teaches kids about US history and important figures.
The pandemic triggered a significant sales bump for VR/AR devices last year. According to the NPD Group, hardware and accessories climbed 53% between March and November 2020 in the US, compared to the same period in 2019. This growth is expected to continue into this year’s first quarter, potentially setting the stage for 2021 to be a big year for VR.
VR is still in an early adoption phase, but it can help kids learn because of its immersive nature, said Schell Games senior game designer Melanie Harke during a “New Technologies Accelerating Education” panel at CES.
The pandemic has changed how consumers are managing and spending their money—so it’s natural that contactless shopping tech was a big topic this year at CES. And this is true for kids as well. During lockdowns, kids have shifted their spending (an average of almost US$9 a week) away from traditional categories like books and candy, to online games like Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft, according to finance app RoosterMoney.
But while money spending habits have shifted, a few CES players are banking on helping consumers and their kids learn how to manage their cash flow better. Greenlight Financial Technology launched an educational investing platform for kids to teach them about money management. Greenlight Max hosts educational content that covers topics like getting started investing and managing personal finances.
There’s a big gap in financial knowledge in the US, according to Greenlight, which cites research from Next Gen Personal Finance finding that only one in six US high school students are required to take a personal finance course to graduate.