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A history of mechanical toys, automata, and talking dolls attests that toys have long been associated with technological developments. Central to childhood and considered to be beneficial for children’s play, the process of mechanisation and digitisation of toys can also divide opinion. The recent availability of digital toys has occurred in tandem with more general anxieties about the role of computers in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development: Toys that leverage the latest advances for increases in functionality and verisimilitude may be popular with children, but they can simultaneously generate a fear in adults that they stifle imaginative play.

Responsiveness to player input and the need for a power source, even if this is not visible, are currently seen as defining characteristics of digital toys. A ...

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