Brio recently released the new series of train engines, the Smart Tech.
I for one has never been a fan of their app driven engines as well as the infrared remote-controlled engines. Even though we got two of the remote-controlled units the kids tend to just use the buttons on top of the engine itself and focus more on getting the switches right and crossing the railway with the cars etc. Don’t get me wrong here, I think it’s awesome that they skip the remotes and go for the “think-ahead” game play. Myself was the same way as I remember it. Therefore, I think that the Smart Tech series is an awesome new approach on “think-ahead”! It works in that way that you place the tunnels (action tunnels as Brio refers to them) over the rail and when the Smart Tech engine enters the tunnel it will receive a signal from the top of the tunnel and act upon that signal.
At the moment there’s three different tunnels, STOP, REVERSE, and SIGNAL. They do just that, stop the engine, reverse (back up) the engine, or just make a sound. The first two demonstrated here:
The stop tunnel will make the engine halt, instantly.
The reverse tunnel will make the engine back up, but compared to the stop tunnel the engine will go through the tunnel slowly and then reverse in full speed.
I got the basic train set for the Smart Tech series for Christmas present this year but as a home automation enthusiast I had to open it up before Christmas eve just to see how they work. First off, I love the red bridge that is included in the starter set. It’s a perfect bridge (no pun intended) between the, somewhat new, Brio Village and the Brio World (the trains). It also has a manual red-light green-light lamp and is over all nicely built.
The only shortcoming of the set is the engine itself, compared to the two sibling engines from the IR remote-controlled sets you see that the plastic is not as top notch. It could be from the coating though but still I find it a bit below Brio level of quality.
The engine itself is powered by two AA batteries while the action tunnels are passive and need no external power to work.
As seen on the circuit boards it seems that the chip is capable of sending up to 50 different “actions” and Brio might expand the actions of the tunnels in the future.
As for opening, to repair, Brio toys I recommend you buy a screw bit called “T18” or “TR18” which is the triangle shaped bit used in all their toys.
To conclude the set that I got; it’s a nice set and I love that Brio has started to think more of the passive control of the engines. With remotes the children will sit and watch more, with these tunnels the kids will be more active and a part of the engines travel. It’s a little bit like when I was young and ran outside as soon as the rain stopped to try to funnel the rain streams in my parents’ driveway. You need to be active to make it do what you want.
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