AI-powered toys represent the future of play for children. These toys can learn from and speak with children, customize reading and math lessons, and teach coding skills. Smart toys present enormous promise but also pose many potential risks to children if not designed responsibly.

The inaugural Smart Toy Awards held in collaboration with the World Economic Forum aim to shape the future of play and childhood by recognizing innovative, ethical and responsible AI-powered toys in eight categories.

During the inaugural Awards Show on 22 May, Klaus Schwab, will.i.am, Henrietta Fore and other judges and special guests spoke about the benefits of these toys but also the importance of developing guidelines for their ethical and responsible design focused on children’s needs.

Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, opened the Awards Show and explained, “We believe that smart toys should be designed ethically and responsibly to protect, educate, and empower children.”

will.i.am, chair of the Smart Toy Awards judging committee and president of the i.am Angel Foundation, discussed the need to create governance and regulations for smart toys. He said, "We're at a crossroads that we've never been in before. We should be very mindful of what toys we want our kids to be around. We need to have regulations and governance around these toys to protect not only the kids that are using the toys but the relationship between the kid and the parent."

UNICEF Executive Director Fore, who served as a judge for the awards, emphasized that “children's rights to protection and privacy do not stop at the digital border. They extend into it.”

Kay-Firth Butterfield, head of AI and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum, underlined the urgency of developing responsible design guidelines for AI-powered toys: "Smart toys can be your child's best friend or a creepy surveillance tool without responsible design and a focus on child children's rights. The line between best friend and surveillance tool is very thin or perhaps nonexistent."

Smart toys can be your child's best friend or a creepy surveillance tool without responsible design and a focus on child children's rights.

—Kay-Firth Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum

The Smart Toy Awards was developed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and its Generation AI project, which focuses on children and youth. The multistakeholder community comprised of members of the private, public, and nonprofit sector, as well as academia, developed guidelines and criteria to use when designing and assessing AI-powered toys and technology for children.

The competition used four design and assessment guidelines to evaluate applicants and select winners of the inaugural Awards:

Data privacy and cybersecurity: How does the toy protect children and other users’ data privacy and cybersecurity?

Accessibility: How is the toy accessible for children with physical, mental, and learning disabilities, including neurodiversity, and children speaking languages other than English and from other cultures?

Use of AI and transparency: How does the toy innovatively use AI and how do the benefits of its use outweigh potential risks? How is the use of AI communicated to the child user and their parents/guardians?

Age appropriateness and healthy play: How is the toy age – and developmental stage – appropriate and how does it promote healthy play and child development?

After launching the competition earlier this year, the Smart Toy Awards received submissions from 47 toy companies in 20 countries.

Shortlisted finalist toys were evaluated by both child testers and the judging committee made up of subject matter experts in many fields working with AI, robotics, education, policy, developmental science, and children and youth.

The winners of the inaugural Smart Toy Awards

Creative Playintelino Smart Train

A modern take on the classic toy train, this smart train promotes creative play and teaches coding skills through programable tiles or an app.

Creative Play - Twin Science & Robotics Autonomous Vehicle Kit

This vehicle kit helps educate and empower children and youth by teaching them about core AI skills and how autonomous vehicles will shape the future.

Innovation - The LEGO Group VIDIYO

This augmented-reality tool allows kids to make their own music and music videos using LEGO characters and “BeatBits” that provide different sound effects.

Accessibility – Leka Alpha

Alpha is designed for children with autism and special needs and features games to play, interact and learn with the toy or a caregiver.

Educational – PlayShifu Plugo

These hands-on games work with a tablet to teach kids reading, math and problem-solving skills in an interactive and fun way.

Smart Companion - ROYBI Robot

This AI-powered companion robot creates personalized lessons for language learning, STEM activities, and speech delay.

Youth Entrepreneur CoderMindz - Coding Game for AI Learners

This board game teaches core AI skills and coding concepts in a fun, engaging and accessible way.

Smart Toy for Children with Disabilities - LuxAI QTrobot

Designed for children with autism and special needs, this robot provides interactive and supportive companionship as well as play-based and social emotional learning.

Why smart toys matter

The winners of the inaugural Smart Toy Awards exemplify responsible and ethical child-centric design of AI-powered toys focused on what is best for children and their development.

“Globally, there is an urgent need to provide education for all using AI, but first we must produce governance around smart toys and educational AI,” Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning, World Economic Forum.”

“We hope the Smart Toy Awards encourages toymakers to strive for excellence in innovation while adopting our governance criteria," Firth-Butterfield added. “We hope that their approach to using responsible AI in their products will be a beacon for others to follow.”

She encourages toy companies to adopt the Smart Toy Awards’ guidelines as they design, develop and deploy smart toys and AI technology for children and youth. Together, we can ensure a positive and responsible future of play and childhood.

Please join us next year for the second annual Smart Toy Awards Show. Learn more about the Smart Toy Awards on our website and watch the full Awards Show.