6 Electronic Toys for Kids

Get ready for an action-packed list of cool electronic toys for kids.   The choice of electronic interactive toys grows every year, and the toy makers grow more and more innovative along the way.

1. Miposaur

miposaur

Miposaur Dinosaur

Miposaur responds to the swipe of your hand! Miposaur has three different moods and ten different commands including things like Swipe, CLap, and Scare. Depending on what it’s in, Miposaur will react to gestures differently.

2. VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Garage

Vtech Go! Go! Garage

Vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Garage

This is a fun playset for the younger crowd – 1-5 year olds.  The VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Park and Learn Deluxe Garage has a ton a exciting things to do.  For example roll the SmartPoint tow truck over 9 SmartPoint locations to hear different phrases, music or fun sound effects. The set includes 7 interchangeable track pieces.  The track pieces connect to other Go! Go! Smart Wheels or Go! Go! Smart Animals playsets (each sold separately) to encourage creativity.

3. VTech Kidizoom Camera Pix

Kidizoom Camera Pix - Pink

Kidizoom Camera Pix – Pink

Kids can take real digital photographs with the VTech Kidizoom Camera Pix.  This kid-friendly camera includes all the tools budding photographers want to use.  Want to take a selfie? The automatic face detection lets you take great ones. Explore your creativity by using static and animated photo effects to enhance your pictures. The Camera Pix also has a video recorder, voice recorder, 4 built-in games and more that add to the fun. Intended for ages 3 to 8 years.

4. KidJamz 2 Safe Listening Headphones

KidJamz 2 Safe Listening Headphones

KidJamz 2 Safe Listening Headphones

Kids love listening to music, but how to you protect them from damaging their hearing while wearing headphones?  The KidJamz 2 Safe Listening Headphones are designed to protect children’s hearing as they listen to movies, music, games, and more without compromising sound quality.  These headphones come in various colors.

5. Snap Circuits – Arcade

Snap Circuits Arcade Kit

Snap Circuits Arcade Kit

The Snap Circuits Arcade Kit follows in a long line of electronic kits that teach children the foundations of electronic design.  These innovative kits contain color-coded, real circuit components that snap together to create working electronic circuits and devices. In this Arcade you do the building and can even program some of your projects. Change the readout on the Programmable Fan module through the included U29 LED Display and Micro Controller. Recommended for children 8 and older.

6. LEGO Mindstorms Robot Kit

LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 31313 Robot Kit

LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 31313 Robot Kit

The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Robot Kit is one of the most advanced electronics kit you can find, and it has the well-established LEGO company behind it. At the heart of the product is the Intelligent EV3 Brick with powerful ARM9 processor, USB port for WiFi and Internet connectivity, Micro SD card reader, back-lit buttons and 4 motor ports. You can use the building App to help build your robots, or advance to the EV3 software for your PC or Mac to build more advanced designs. Building instructions for 5 robots included.

 

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

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

buy-amazon-button2

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

buy-amazon-button2

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

buy-amazon-button2

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

buy-amazon-button2

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

buy-amazon-button2

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.

buy-amazon-button2

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

Hands-On Test: Merge VR Goggles

I spent some time testing out the Merge Virtual Reality (VR) Goggles over the past few days.  These goggles are an interesting way to get started with virtual reality, and I’ll describe my experience while trying to use them with various VR media.

Disclaimer: These goggles were provided by the manufacturer free of charge, but we are providing an honest review that is not influenced by the manufacturer or anyone else. Now on to the review.

(No time to read the whole review? Then jump straight to our Conclusion)

Overview

First of all I’m no VR expert – in fact I’ve never used any type of VR hardware before at all.  So my review is coming from the point of view of a true novice, who is most likely the target market for these goggles.

Merge VR Goggles

Merge VR Goggles

There are two general classes of VR hardware available:

  • VR goggles that use a smartphone inserted in them to provide the visual experience.  These are less expensive, usually well under $100.  The most basic of these is the Google Cardboard.
  • Dedicated hardware like Oculus, Gear VR or Vive.  The full VR experience with these products can cost from $200 to $1500

The Merge VR Goggles are clearly a step up from the simplistic Google Cardboard goggles, with the following features:

  • They are made from a comfortable foam material, as opposed to, well, cardboard
  • Secure and comfortable head straps
  • Adjustable lens controls
  • On-screen Smartphone controls
  • Anti-fog vents
  • Support for camera operation during usage

360 VR Media Selection

Regardless of what model of VR goggles you use you need a source of 360 degree VR media to view.  I found that the quality of this media was a big factor in my enjoyment of the goggles.

I started with the Merge website Vrstart.com, as suggested by the product packaging.  This site lists a selection of Apps and YouTube videos that support VR viewing.  This website is a convenient starting point, but this is not the only way to find VR-supported media.  E.g. You can go directly to YouTube.com and search for 360 enabled videos.

Goggle Operation

I had a range of experiences with the Merge VR Goggles, to some extent driven by the quality of the media I tried. But for now let me stick to the goggles themselves.

The first issue I ran into is that my personal phone is a little too small to work in these goggles.  I have an older Samsung Galaxy S4. So I had to borrow an S5 from a family member for this testing.  So if you want to buy these goggles make sure you have a more recent smartphone (within the past two years).

Inserting the phone was a bit difficult – it was a tight squeeze.  This often caused me to press a button accidentally on the phone which forced me to take the phone out and get back into the proper mode.  It took a while to figure out how to insert and then later remove the phone from the goggles without pushing a stray button.  Once the phone was inserted properly I was good to go.

The adjustable lenses worked quite well.  They allowed me to set them just right for a sharp viewing experience.

merge4a

The control buttons were useful, but only for certain media.  When experiencing 360-enabled YouTube videos a button press would allow us to control the video (pause, restart, mute).  When using the Google Streetview app we were able to move our position by pressing the buttons.  But other media did not seem to react to the buttons, so these were not as rewarding to experience.

VR-Enabled Apps

I tried a couple of free apps but I was not particularly impressed.  One app would not run on my Samsung S5.  Another app was of surprisingly low quality.  Also the goggle control buttons did not seem to do much good with the apps. I’m sure if I tried some more apps I’d find some that I liked.  Although there is one I did like …

Google Streetview App

I really liked this app.  There are two kinds of media available here:  user-submitted 360-degree photos, and Google Streetview scenes.  The Streetview scenes allow you to walk through international tourist destinations, like Amsterdam and Rome.  All of the media that I watched is high-resolution and very sharp. Once I’m done writing this review this is the first app I’m going to go back to since the opportunities are almost endless.

streetview

YouTube Videos

I enjoyed watching 360-enabled YouTube videos on the goggles.  The goggle controls allowed us to start and stop the video and to adjust the volume.  There is a huge variety of high resolution 360-enabled videos on YouTube so this source of VR media alone may be worth the price of admission.

Conclusion/Recommendation

Considering that this is our first VR viewing experience we enjoyed using these goggles.  They are somewhat higher priced than the bare-bones Google Cardboard, but far less expensive than dedicated hardware.  Plus the foam construction is certain to last longer than cardboard.  Using these goggles with certain media is a very rewarding, and as an entry-level selection we give a THUMBS UP to the Merge VR Goggles.

Blank Mug Design

buy-amazon-button2P.S. Be sure to switch to WIFI mode when using the goggles.  We noticed a high amount of data usage when watching 360-enabled content.

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