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The Gadget Show Live 2016

31 March - 3 April 2016

The Gadget Show Live is the UK’s largest consumer tech exhibition, based on Channel 5’s (aptly named) The Gadget Show. Based at the NEC in Birmingham, the four-day show draws visitors from around the UK to test, buy and gawk at the latest in consumer tech.

Tesla on display at this year's show

The star of this year’s show was virtual reality, with devices from Samsung, Playstation, Oculus Rift and lots more on display. VR is one of tech’s hottest topics at the minute but it’s (apparently) not for everyone – it gives some people motion sickness. Still, if you can stand it there are more options than ever available, in a wider range of prices.

The show attracts plenty of families, and with opportunities to test drive drones and set a world record for Lego-stacking, it’s not hard to see why. But there were also lots of inventions designed specifically with children in mind on display. Here are a few that caught our eye (not an easy task in the massive NEC!)

Gadgets for families – our picks*

Milo. This toy’s tagline is ‘connecting separated loved ones.’ Originally devised with military families in mind, Milo has evolved into a toy for any family that’s far apart.

There’s no shortage of ways for separated families to communicate (Skype, social media, even old-fashioned phone calls), but Milo includes some special features to help it stand out. The screen is built into the face of a cartoon lion that’s designed to be appealing for younger children. You can record video messages to be watched later on, so you don’t need to be online at the same time to chat through Milo. And the toy comes with tokens and clues to set up an interactive scavenger hunt, letting families play together even when they can’t be together.

Milo is still being tested, so you can’t buy one for your family yet. But if you’d like to learn more and get updates, visit their website.

Tiggly and Osmo. These two tablet-based educational games were on display at the ThornCrest EMEA stand. Tiggly and Osmo are iOS apps to help children aged two to eight (Tiggly) and five to 13 (Osmo) learn about maths, words and problem-solving. Both have a colourful, attractive design, along with sets of shapes and blocks to introduce an interactive real-world element. Find out more about Tiggly here and Osmo here.

MadLab. Have you ever wished your child knew how to solder? If the answer is yes, or even if it’s not, check out MadLab’s range of kits for children and adults.

The kits include a circuit board, components and an instruction sheet. You’ll need your own basic tools (like wire cutters, a soldering iron and safety goggles), but once you’ve got this equipment, children aged 7 and up can build things ranging from simple lie detectors to programmable robots. 

If building your own MadLab kit with your child sounds too daunting (maybe you don’t have your own soldering iron), they sometimes run workshops and events you might be able to visit – have a look at their website for more detail.

Engino. This range of toys encourages children to ‘play to invent’ by building cars, aircrafts and even solar-powered robots. With a range of products for different ages, abilities and budgets, Engino toys are designed to get children excited about science and technology through play. Check out their UK website for more information. 

Pi-Top. This build-it-yourself laptop helps people learn about computing and hardware in a ‘gamified environment.’ Designed for anyone aged six or over, Pi-Top kits are compatible with Raspberry Pi and some other microcomputers. Once you’ve built your laptop the Pi-Top OS also includes CEED Universe, an educational game that teaches basic computing. Get more info about the Pi-Top here.

Other highlights

Lifelites is a charity providing specialist tech for life limited and disabled young people. They’re in every children’s hospice service in the British Isles, and had a busy Gadget Show stand full of lights, music and excitement. Find out more about their work here.

Gadget Girls panel on women in tech 

Thursday afternoon featured a panel about Gadget Girls on the Engineer Your Future stage. Panellists like Yasmin Bey (European Digital Girl of the Year 2015/2016, taught herself to code by hacking the Club Penguin site!), Mohima Ahmed (Trustee of Apps for Good and speaker at Digital Families 2015) and Jacquelyn Guderley (co-founder of Stemettes) offered advice for young women and their families about how to get into tech.

Key points: take advantage of the internet, break daunting tasks down into manageable bits and don’t be afraid to learn from your child!

By Rachel Rosen  


*We haven’t properly tested any of these products, so we can’t give them the official PZ seal of approval. You can have a look at our reviews and Family Champions for more information on family-friendly tech.