Tag Archives: toy

Real and Virtual Play Combine with Sam’s Curious Cars



Learning is best done when fun and what’s more fun than play? Sam’s Curious Cars fall right into this sweet spot and Todd gets an interactive demo from Joachim.

Sam Labs have created a series of component-based toys (think chassis, wheels, motors) that can be built up to make a vehicle – in this instance a car. The components are compatible with Lego bricks, so builders can really express themselves.

Once constructed, the car can be controlled by other components, like a switch for power and a slide for left and right. The car can also be controlled by an app and for advanced learners, the cars behaviour can be built up using control blocks in the app. It’s designed to introduce some of the key concepts of programming without actually having to code.

There’s a series of six different sets, priced from US$99 and the Curious Cars are $199. Additional sensors and motors can be bought separately. Available now from the Sam Labs shop and other good retailers.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Folding Playhouse at Gadget Show Live



Folding PlayhouseMy little girl loves playing outside but I’ve noticed over the years that many of her outdoor toys become damaged and discoloured from the elements of sun, wind and rain. While small toys can be put away in the shed, larger items have to stay outside to be battered about. Kev and the Folding Playhouse may have the solution for at least one garden toy and he tells me more about the development of the product from idea to the current concept model and plans for the future.

The Folding Playhouse is what it says. It’s an outdoor plastic playhouse that folds down, either for storage or for conversion into an arts and craft table. It folds in around 15 seconds and can be reassembled just as quickly. Once completely folded, the Playhouse is not only easier to store in the garage or shed, it can be taken in the back of a large family car for fun at friends’ and relatives’ houses.

Folding Playhouse Prototype

The picture above shows a 3D printed miniature version of the Folding Playhouse. The final version will be in bright colours, about 1.5 m high, 1.4 m wide, 1.3 m deep, with the potential to customise with stickers or decals. With all new products, feedback is vital and there’s been plenty of that at Gadget Show Live as part of the British Inventors’ Project.

Kev and his team have been in contact with toy companies worldwide to bring the Playhouse market and the expectation is that this would sell for under GB£200. There’s more information on the Folding Playhouse website, which has some interesting market stats – did you know that 30 million outdoor toys were sold in the UK in 2014 generating nearly £350 million in sales?


Milo Brings Home Faraway Parents at Gadget Show Live



Milo LogoWhile every parent wants to be home to see their children, sometimes work commitments and foreign travel prevent mummies and daddies being there for bedtime stories. Although it can’t give out cuddles, Milo is a friendly video messaging system that brings distant parents closer to home. Hannah and Emily take me through their plans for Milo at Gadget Show Live.

Milo

Milo is 15cm (6″) high toy lion, with a camera in his mane and a small LCD screen for his face. The idea is that absent parents record messages for the child on the Milo website, whether a good-night message, short story or simple loving reassurance. The child can play the video at bedtime (or other suitable moment) and then respond with a video message of his or her own.

MiloMilo can be provide additional fun through a treasure hunt when Milo’s face shows clues as to the whereabouts of small tokens. Once found, placing them on the lion’s savannah base will trigger a video message reward.

Shown as part of the British Inventors’ Project, Milo is still early in its life-cycle though it’s hoped to be on the market within two years at around GB£50.

Since Gadget Show Live, Hannah has contacted me to say that she has entered the Virgin Media Business VOOM Competition which offers funding, business advice and a chance to pitch to Richard Branson for the winner. To get past the first round she need as much help as possible as it’s a public vote to put people and their ideas through. You can see Hannah’s video pitch for Milo and vote him through.


Milo and Lego Education Brings STEM to School



Lego LogoLego have a history stretching back to the 1930s and for the last few decades, Lego has run an education program to bring Lego to the classroom in relevant way for all levels of schooling. Nick learns from Leisha Hoot about Lego Education and how it gets students interested in science.

At CES, Lego announced Lego Education WeDo 2.0, an elementary level STEM program that uses robotics to work with children in science. Through Milo, a small robotic rover, it gives them experience of programming, sensors and motors. It’s all very easy to use partly because children are already familiar with Lego bricks, but Lego has taken great care in designing the software too. In addition, WeDo 2.0 is going to be part of the First Lego League. The WeDo core set starts at around US$160 and is available now.

Nick DiMeo is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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CogniToys’ Dino Grows With The Child



CogniToys DinoDeveloped on the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign, CogniToys are Internet-connected smart toys with speech recognition that interactively engage and grow with a child. The first CogniToy is a (roughly) six inch friendly green dinosaur – what’s not to like? Aylee talks with Donald Coolidge, co-founder of CogniToys to find out more.

As if being a friendly colourful dinosoaur isn’t enough, the CogniToys Dino is personalised to grow with the child, slowly adjusting its content and interactions based on how the child is playing with Dino, what the toy is asked, the words used and so on. The child can talk to the toy and Dino talks back.

The toy is wi-fi connected and the heavy processing is done in the cloud using technology developed from IBM’s Watson. This drives the experience and the engagement to the child, allowing natural responses to questions. If the kid asks why the sky is blue, it’s Watson that provides the answer.

Dino can be pre-ordered for US$119 with shipping expected in June 2016.

Aylee Nielsen is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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TikTeck Sells Direct to Consumer



tikteckTikTeck are coming to market with the sole purpose of bringing affordable products direct to the consumer and cutting out the middleman. With only a few gadgets available, Daniel chats with Rex Chen, VP Product Development of TikTeck to find out what’s in store.

In the first wave of products, there’s a Bluetooth-controlled smart LED bulb displaying 16 million colours for only US$9.99. You don’t need me to tell you what a bargain that price is. The companion smartphone app runs on both iOS and Android, providing group controls and timers, much like some of the market leading apps. Available for pre-order now with delivery expected end of February.

TikTeck RoverCombining both security and fun, the next product is a wireless camera rover. It’s a digital video camera on a remote controlled buggy which can be steered and monitored by wifi from a smartphone. US$69.99 when it goes on sale. I want one – the black version in the interview looks positively menacing.

Finally, TikTeck have a smart finger ring that measures heart rate and tracks activity and sends the data back to the smartphone by Bluetooth. It looks far more like a man’s ring than it does a fitness tracker. Price not finalised but likely to be in the $50-$100 range.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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VEX Robotics Ant by HEXBUG



Hexbug LogoMy children love their Hexbug Nanos and I doubt a few days go past without the distinctive buzz and rattle of the bugs banging round their habitats. It’s amazing what a fairly simple machine can get up to and the entertainment it brings. Their motion is surprisingly realistic too.

Older children and grown-ups will enjoy Hexbug’s more advanced robots, in particular the Vex Robotics Ant, a remote controlled robot with an autonomous mode. In the latter function, the Ant will use its bump sensors on the head and tail to veer away from obstacles and generally scurry about, scaring household pets.

Hexbug Ant

 

The Ant has over 60 programming variations that can be adjusted using switches on the robot so it’s quick and easy to see the changes in behaviour without having to learn any programming. Assembly is required with 150 snap together pieces but that’s half the fun!

The Hexbug range has moved into fingerboards too, with the Tony Hawk Circuit Board. That’s their pun, not mine. This set comes with a power axle and remote control to drive the board round the skate park.

Tony Hawk Circuit Board

Available from major toy retailers everywhere, the Vex Robotics Ant has an RRP of GB£49.99 and the Tony Hawk Circuit Board comes in at GB£14.99. Definitely good gifts for Fathers Day – if my wee ones are reading, I’d like an Ant please.


Syma S107G Helicopter Review



According to the packaging, the Syma S107G is an “alloy infrared remote control helicopter ” with “3.5 channel gyro system” but all you need to know is that it’s an easy-to-fly toy helicopter, tremendous fun and very inexpensive. Anything else is superfluous.

In the box, there’s a helicopter, a remote control unit, a USB charging cable and few spare blades to help with the odd accident or two. The ‘copter measures about 22 cm from nose to tail, with a similar rotor diameter. If you haven’t seen these toys before, they have contra-rotating main blades which keeps the helicopter stable in the air and the rear rotor controls forwards and backwards, rather than rotation. There’s no cyclic pitch here, fortunately.

Syma S107G

The remote control unit is designed to be used with both hands. The throttle lies under the left thumb and directional control is looked after by the right, with action for forwards, backwards, rotate left and rotate right. A knurled knob in the middle of the unit adjusts the rotational trim. Six AA batteries power the handset which may seem like overkill but a small cable stored in the unit can be used to recharge the helicopter’s battery. The S107G’s battery can also be recharged via a supplied USB cable and recharging typically takes around 40 minutes.

Remote Control Unit

The helicopter itself is largely of metal construction, with a plastic nose-cone. After surviving a number of horrific crashes, my opinion is that the S107G is pretty sturdy, especially for the price, but it is eventually going to break. Spare rotor blades are provided in the box but as yet I’ve not had to use any of them and the included instructions suggest that a range of spares can be ordered too. A slider switch turns the ‘copter on and off, and a small charging port takes the recharging cable.

Flying the helicopter is easy as long as you have some level of sensitivity and hand-eye co-ordination. With a little throttle, the helicopter will take-off and hover. Too much throttle and you’ll be hitting the ceiling. Just take it gently. Once the up-and-down has been mastered, rotating left and right will turn the helicopter on the spot. Finally forwards and backwards completes the range of motions but it’s a little trickier to master. Providing you have a sufficient space, you’ll be flying figure 8s in no time.

The S107G is definitely an indoor toy as the helicopter is light and any wind will overpower it. My attempts to fly the S107G outside usually ended up with the chopper in the hedge. Even within a room, flying close to walls and ceilings will affect the flight from reflected air currents, making it much more challenging to fly. Overall the ‘copter is very easy to fly and control, especially in a larger room and in terms of flight time, you’ll get a little over five minutes of flying before a recharge is needed.

S107G Blades Whirring

But this is all irrelevant. All you need to know is that flying the S107G is easy and enormous fun. My daughter and I had a great time with my helicopter chasing her remote control car round a room, or rescuing Lego people from an imaginary disaster.

The S107G is available in three colours from Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com for just £13.50 / $20 which is a ridiculously cheap price when you consider the technology inside these devices. Indulge your inner Airwolf.

(Disclosure – the Syma S107G was a personal purchase.)


Sphero Meets Sharky the Beaver



Sphero LogoGNC first saw Sphero at CES last year and it’s a really cool toy: a rugged waterproof ball controlled from a smartphone or tablet. So what has Sphero been up to in the past year…Todd and Don find out from Ian Bernstein, CTO Founder.

While the  hardware is unchanged from last year, Sphero has grown the number and type of companion apps from around 5 apps to over 20 with several produced by third parties. New on the scene is a mixed reality app which uses the tablet or smartphone’s camera to track Sphero and overlay Sharky the Beaver on the device’s screen. It’s particularly fun as the real-world interaction with Sphero creates a relationship with the cartoon character which makes it that bit more believable.

Sphero works with both iOS and Android devices, and retails for around $130. Lots of fun and there’s an SDK if you feel like rolling your own (sorry!)

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Parrot AR.Drone 2.0



Parrot AR.DroneRemote control vehicles are fun and remote control aircraft doubly so. Imagine then how much fun a remote control quadricopter is, especially when it’s controlled by wifi from your smartphone. Todd takes flying lessons from Parrot’s Julian.

The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is an update of the original AR.Drone, with the main difference being an HD camera on the drone which streams video footage of the flight back to the device so the operator can see what the Drone is seeing. The AR.Drone 2.0 is controlled via wifi from either an Apple or Android  tablet/smartphone.

There’s some pretty sophisticated technology in the AR.Drone. For example, it has a downward-facing camera that the Drone uses to track motion over the ground. On a windy day, the Drone can hold position over a spot by using this camera to detect wind-blown motion and then compensate for it. Very clever and cool.

The AR.Drone is pricey enough but not unaffordable at $299. Available now from good retailers worldwide.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Daniel Lewis of The Audacity Podcast for the TechPodcast Network.