The word of the day, kids, is robot. I saw lots and lots of them at the Toy Fair today. Robots across thousands of booths, taking the form of dinosaurs, animals, and humanoids, all eerily anthropomorphic. Robots for boys and girls, big kids and little ones, for parents with $130 to spend and those with $900. The interesting thing is that the word “robot” means something different to each toy company. Some of them behave fairly predictably, and the fun really lies in assembling them, gears and all. Some react to sound, some to touch, and one reportedly to yes or no questions. I don’t believe every vendor who says theirs is more than a remote-controlled toy, but I know this: they’re all way more interactive than the RC cars you grew up with. Speaking of interactivity, almost every company, it seems, has a tech toy with a USB key that unlocks an online community with additional games and content. There’s the Barbie Girl Device ($29.99, ages 6 and up), a 512MB MP3 player whose USB connection unlocks new fashion and style features on BarbieGirls.com. Alternately, Vtech’s Wii-like V-Motion console ($69.99, ages 4-7) and V.Smile Cyber Pocket gaming device ($69.99, ages 5 and up) include access to the Vtech V.Link, a gaming community. I won’t comment on the Barbie online makeover thing, but I will say that many of these communites are educational, and all of them seem safe. And yet, despite the fact that grown-up software has become increasingly Web-based, it’s startling to see toys that encourage young childrens’ Web surfing — not to mention introduction to social networking. As one Mattel rep said, “We’re not just competing for their toys, we’re competing for their leisure time.” (Non-cynical non-sequitor: Mattel-Fisher-Price’s year-round showroom is a huge labyrinth of toy-filled hallways. It makes my inner seven year-old more than a little giddy.) There were also plenty of toys that kids can take with them outside. There’s the updated, waterproof Fisher-Price Kid-Tough camera ($54.99) and Kid-Tough Portable DVD Player ($179), both for ages 3 and up, solar-powered miniature cars by Owi ($10.95), and another camera whose name I can’t mention until the embargo lifts. Whether on our own or with the help of a few elfish testers, we’ll be glad to get hands on time with as much of it as we can get away with.