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Virtual pets 'to boom at Christmas'

Virtual pets ranging from a robotic puppy to Robo Fish are predicted to top this year's Christmas wish lists, according to toy giant Hamleys.

The retailer has released a list of its predicted best-sellers, topped by the lifelike puppy Teksta that responds to voices, physical gestures, lights and sounds with the help of "state-of-the-art artificial intelligence".

The £75 toy can even "share its feelings" through barking, crying, whimpering and expressive eye patterns, while its owners can teach it to stop, sit and perform a back flip.

The £14 Robo Fish has already become one of the fastest-selling toys of all time and features an intelligent sensor that sees it performing "the swimming patterns of a real fish" when dropped in to water.

And a £14 box of assorted VIP Pets including a nature-loving bohemian, a romantic novelist, a famous party planner and a top sports star require help from their owners to appear in front of the paparazzi cameras.

Should any of the pets fall ill, the £26 Doc McStuffins Doctor's Bag includes a sparkly thermometer, syringe, blood pressure cuff with working gauge, otoscope and a light-up stethoscope.

Also making the list is the Lion Chi Temple, the scene of tribal warfare and the battle to reach the sacred Chi orb rising high above the temple. The £125 toy comes with seven mini figures wielding weapons, an agile eagle drone fighter and a rotating tower canon than can be deployed to repel an airborne assault.

The Monster High 13 Wishes dolls are due for release later this year but are already expected to be a top seller on the back of a DVD of the same name that follows the tale of Howleen Wolf who stumbles upon a lantern that grants her 13 wishes. The "freakishly fabulous" range of dolls are for those aged three and over and cost £23 each, and come with a pet, diary, brush, doll stand and character-specific accessories.

Hamleys buying and planning director Laura Olver said: "Every year there is such pressure to come up with the latest toy, but I think we've got a combination of newness and the traditional.

"The robotic puppy first came out in the late Nineties and sold eight million pieces, and now it's back with new gestures. There is a sentimentality there, but there's also newness and reinvention."

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