Cool High Tech Toys for 2016

High tech toys can be great fun, or downright dangerous.  But if you are careful to select the right product, while considering proper safety safeguards, then high tech toys can be a great way to spice up your life.

For example in 2015 Hoverboards, aka self-balancing scooter, were all the rage.  We all saw how that turned out.  But if you did your homework, e.g. looked for the proper industry certifications, then you might have been able to avoid a lot of the battery trouble that befell a lot of those products.

Similarly with quadcopters, aka drones, if you consider who will be using it you can make an educated purchasing decision and possibly avoid a disaster.  For example if you are buying a drone for a 10 year old, is it a reasonable gift in the first place, what safety features does the drone have, are the spinning blades protected, and so on.  Proper thought should be given whenever buying a cutting edge product.

On that note here are some great high-tech products for kids, teens, and adults that we think would make awesome gifts this Christmas.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

If you have not heard about Amazon Echo you might be amazed at what it can do.  This is a device that will listen to your voice for various commands and will reply or take the appropriate actions.  The highlight of this product is that it will play music from various sources such as your Amazon library, Pandora, Spotify, and more.  It can also read audiobooks as well as the news, traffic, weather, and other information sources.

The Echo fills your room with 360-degree omnidirectional sound, and this superior sound quality is confirmed by the complimentary user reviews it receives.

The Amazon Echo also has more advanced features for controlling your home, such as your thermostats, switches and lights.  This capability requires that your home is properly equipped with to take advantage of these features.  For example the Nest thermostat, the Philips Hue system, or Samsung SmartThings.

Best for: Adults or teens

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Syma X5C Quadcopter

There are so many drones and quadcopters on the market that’s it’s like the wild-west.  Many of the brand names are new and unrecognizable, and the reviews are suspect (always look for a pattern of many reviews that were in exchange for free products – they are not to be trusted).  We recommend choosing a more trusted brand that you know will be around in a year or more.

Syma X5C Quadcopter

Syma X5C Quadcopter

One brand that’s been around for a few years is Syma, and we found an entry-level quadcopter that we think would be a good choice for teens.  It’s the Syma 2.4GHz X5C RC Quadcopter with Gyro and Camera.  This is a relatively small drone, but it has some features that make it attractive:  Gyros for stability, camera, and spare blades available.

The camera is a 2MP HD camera, so the quality will be so-so, but good enough for an entry level drone.  The spare blades are almost a necessity because it is inevitable that the drone will drift off and hit something or even crash if the operator is not trained or if the weather interferes (such as wind).

Note: The Federal Aviation Administration requires registration of many drones flown in the US, for hobby or commercial purposes. To learn more about drone registration requirements, visit Amazon’s Fly Responsibly page.

Best for: Teens

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Star Wars BB-8 Robot + Force Band

BB-8 Droid with Force Band

BB-8 Droid with Force Band

Last year this BB-8 App-Controlled Robot from robot experts Sphero was such a huge hit that it sold out quickly from many stores.  This year they have upgraded the robot with a new Force Band which allows you to control the robot through hand gestures, and has the robot follow you as you move around.

Best for: Any Star Wars fan

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Ozobot Programmable Robot

Ozobot 2.0

Ozobot 2.0

Check out our article about this really cool little robot toy for kids – the Ozobot 2.0 programmable robot.

Best for: Kids

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Tested Safe: EPIKGO Self-Balancing Scooter

epikgo

EPIKGO Self-Balancing Scooter

Hoverboards are back!  But they are much safer than they were in 2015.  All of the hoverboards we see for sale in 2016 claim to be tested to US safety standards.

One such hoverboard is the EPIKGO Self-Balancing Scooter.  It is tested to UL 2272 standards, as well as UL 2271 for the battery. This scooter has 400W dual motors that help it climb slopes as steep as 18 degree and last over 1 hour at 10mph top speed on a single charge.  We appreciate that the reviews do not seem compensated for, as we see on other scooters on the market.

We recommend you thoroughly read the information before buying, and keep in mind that even though the battery is safe there are still operational risks when using a self-balancing scooter such as falling and crashing.  These risks apply to all age groups – being younger or older does not help when operating this type of machine.

Best For: Adults and older teens

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Disclaimer: This post may contain Affiliate links. Prices may change at any time. Do your own research before purchasing.

Hatchimal Alternatives

hatchimalsAs expected Hatchimals have turned out to be the hottest and hardest-to-find toy this Christmas season.  What is surprising is that they have completely sold out in early November and prices are sky-high (through 3rd-party sellers).  We don’t know when there will be more supply to satisfy the demand, but in the meantime if you would rather spend something like $40-$60 for a reasonable replacement toy, rather than spending $150 and up for a Hatchimal then we have some ideas for you to consider.

FurReal Friends – Interactive Animals

FurReal Friends Torch

FurReal Friends Torch

FurReal Friends has a few different animals that your child can interact with rather than just hold.  For example the FurReal Friends Torch, My Blazin’ Dragon responds to touch with 50+ sound and motion combinations. Fill his tank with water and he breathes flame-colored mist (and burps).  He also give fun responses when you touch his nose.

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FurReal Friends Bootsie

FurReal Friends Bootsie

There’s also FurReal Friends Bootsie – a playful cat that looks and acts just like a real kitty. Wave at her or tap her mouth with included treat for fun expressions.  Pet her head to discover her current mood.

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Little Live Pets

llpets-snuggles

Little Live Pets – Snuggles

Another alternative to Hatchimals is Little Live Pets.  First up is the Little Live Pets Snuggles My Dream Puppy.  This is a fun little interactive puppy that responds to hugging and feeding.  It is a very soft animal and kids seems to love it.

The only possible issue with this toy is reported quality issues.  If you absolutely must get this toy do so with the expectation that it might not work properly and might need to be replaced.

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Peppy Pets Dog

Peppey Pets Toy Dog

Peppy Pets Toy Dog

The Peppy Pets Kid Powered Dog can be a nice cuddly companion for little kids.  The dog is soft and can perform tricks like flipping.   The pet is not battery powered – it flips using the tug of the leash.  So it is not as advanced as the more technological interactive pets but it can be a fun friend for a younger child.

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Disclaimer: This post may contain Affiliate links. Prices may change at any time. Do your own research before purchasing.

Fun Playsets for Girls

If you’re struggling to come up with an ideal gift for a little girl in your life why not consider a playset.  There are many such playsets to choose from, and each one is typically focused on a particular brand or character.  So take a look at our list of fun and exciting playsets for girls.

First let me mention that many playsets will have small pieces, so take care to check whether they are appropriate for children over 3 years of age.

My Little Pony Explore Equestria Crystal Empire Castle

My Little Pony Equestria Crystal Empire Castle

My Little Pony Equestria Crystal Empire Castle

This translucent blue My Little Pony Explore Equestria Crystal Empire Castle by Hasbro can be a great gift for a little girl enamored with those magical ponies.  This highly-rated set has a rotating light-up feature and reflects 3 cutie marks at the press of a heart-shaped button. It also has 2 staircases and areas for play on all sides. There are also 2 closets that have shelves that can spin, and a swing for the Baby Flurry Heart figure. Some of the sixteen accessories include a dress, throne, crystal vanity, cradle, and jewels. And what would any modern toy be without a smartphone app? Just scan the pony’s code to unlock more fun in the My Little Pony Friendship Celebration app.
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Barbie Glam Getaway House

Barbie Glam Getaway House

Barbie Glam Getaway House

The Barbie line of dolls and accessories has a long history of sparking the playful imagination of young girls.  This Barbie Glam Getaway House lets girls pretend that they are de-stressing from their busy life and just chilling at their hidden hideaway. A latch and carrying handle means this getaway home is also the perfect play set to take on a getaway of her own.

The set includes a cute kitchenette, an adorable bedroom and en suite bathroom. Barbie can make a meal at the stove and dine at the counter on one of two included chair stools — so there’s room for a friends and family. Accessories include a teapot, cooking pot and plates. Recommended for ages 3 and older. (Barbie doll not included)

There are a few different options with this set:  Add a convertible, add a pool, or add a Birthday doll.

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Fisher Price My First Dollhouse

Fisher Price My First Dollhouse

Fisher Price My First Dollhouse

The nice thing about the Fisher Price My First Dollhouse is that it is designed for younger kids of 2-5 years old.  All of the features are a little bigger and more easily handled by kids that are developing manual dexterity. Each family member is sized just-right for little hands to hold.  The Dollhouse’s five rooms set the scene for your child to dream up role-play scenarios and imitate everyday life. Includes mom, dad and baby figures.

buy-amazon-button2Step2 Little Bakers Kitchen

Step2 Little Bakers Kitchen

Step2 Little Bakers Kitchen

The Step2 Little Bakers Kitchen is a really cute kitchen set that comes with a ton of accessories.  It has all the features of mommy and daddy’s kitchen, so your child can emulate cooking, cleaning, and other activities. The set has an oven, microwave and refrigerator.  Also a special frying pan and boiling pot with lid activate electronic frying and boiling water sounds in stove’s front burner.  There’s even an attached doll seat for your child’s doll to get involved in the play (doll not included).

This playset is a bit on the bigger side and is something that needs its own space in the home since it cannot be packed away on a regular basis. Recommended for 2-8 years old.

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Shopkins Season 5 Super Shopper Pack

shopkins-shopper-pack

Shopkins Season 5 Shopper Pack

The Shopkins Season 5 Super Shopper Pack features Musical Miniatures, Sporty Allsorts, Tiny Toys and more. The set includes 26 Shopkins and 6 Back Packs – 32 pieces total. Colors and styles of Shopkins may vary.

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Disclaimer: This post may contain Affiliate links. Prices may change at any time. Do your own research before purchasing.

Ozobot 2.0 Bit – The Programmable Robot

There is a wave of robotic toys on the market these days.  We have already highlighted a number of them already.  And this is a very good development for kids.  These educational bots both entertain kids and expose them to the type of technology that they may very well be designing themselves in future years. Video games merely entertain – educational robots prepare them for the future.

Ozobot 2.0

Ozobot 2.0

The Ozobot 2.0 Bit is a handy little programmable robot that can keep your kids occupied for hours.  Now first of all this device is a little on the small side – measuring in at just over an inch.  But the point of this bot is not its size but its capabilities.  You can program your Ozobot Bit to dance, race, and more.  There is a corresponding app that lets you play in-app games, download activities from the Ozobot website, and create your own challenges and games. 

One aspect that we find interesting is the various levels of programmability of this little device.  Younger kids can create simpler activities using basic OzoCodes, and they can command their Ozobot to do numerous actions with names like Nitro Boost, Zig-Zag, and Tornado.

Ozobot App Screenshot

Ozobot App Screenshot

Advanced Programming

As children grow they can advance on to more advanced skills in which they can fully program the Ozobot using a visual editor.  This is the real power of this toy – allowing kids to step beyond basic commands and activities and taking control with skills that they can master long before formal programming instruction in school.  The results of their efforts play out in 3D in the real world, not the virtual world like an app or a computer screen.  The Ozobot moves, races, and possibly crashes right in front of them.

The Ozobot 2.0 Bit is not very expensive, and for the potential it can offer your child we find it very attractive as an educational Robot, despite its small size.   This device is recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Disclaimer: This post may contain Affiliate links. Prices may change at any time. Do your own research before purchasing.