The best and most-wanted tech toys for Christmas 2016
It's mid-October, which means kids everywhere are already writing letters to Santa and nagging parents for the latest "must-have" toys. But which tech toys will the elves be making for your little one this festive season? New Atlas looks at some of the best and most-wanted tech toys for Christmas 2016.
BB-8 Remote Control (with Force Band)
When BB-8 rolled out last year, it was clear the adorable droid was going feature on Star Wars merchandise everywhere. But the product we fell in love with was the BB-8 styled Sphero robot ball which can be controlled via a smartphone. This year's version comes with battle-worn styling and a wrist-worn Force Band, a motion controller which lets you send BB-8 on its way with a flick of the wrist.
A special edition BB-8 bundled with the Force Band (which makes you feel like even more of a Jedi than you usually do) will set you back US$200, while the band on its own, which works with the original BB-8 Sphero and other Sphero robots powered by Bluetooth Smart, costs $80.
Revell Quadcopter Steady Quad Cam
While you might have a GoPro Karma or DJI Mavic on your personal Christmas wish list, they're probably overkill for most kids. Instead, they can get a taste of airborne drone action with a more age-appropriate flier, like the Revell Quadcopter Steady Quad Cam.
Aimed at users aged from 14-years-old the Steady Quad Cam boasts features such as Height Control Assistant which makes it easy to control (and not crash too often). Its 720p video recording and 4 GB of storage also means kids can get busy editing aerial footage when they get home. The Revell Quadcopter Steady Quad Cam costs around $110.
WowWee Chip the Robot Dog
We will always have a soft spot for Sony's Aibo line of robot dogs. But the latest generation of interactive robot pets look fun too, like Chip the Robot Dog from WowWee. Chip is said to be affectionate and trainable, and responds to touch thanks to the various sensors packed inside its cute shell.
He will follow his owner as long as they are wearing an included SmartBand (and don't go up stairs) play fetch with his Bluetooth SmartBall, and other games via an iOS or Android app. He'll also bound back to his charging station, on his slightly weird mecanum wheel feet, when he needs a recharge. Chip the Robot Dog costs $200.
VTech KidiZoom Action Cam
With the best will in the world, your child's backyard antics don't all need to be recorded in 4K using their very own GoPro Hero5 Black. The VTech KidiZoom Action Cam is probably a more suitable camera for them to mount to their bike or skateboard, and records in a modest but still child-pleasing 640 x 480 resolution.
It's waterproof to 6 ft (1.8 m) with an included case, and a 1.4-inch screen on the rear means kids can see what they are shooting. Meanwhile, games, photo effects, and filters give the target audience of five to 12-year-olds something to do when they have finished filming too. It currently costs around $35.
Bracelet-making gets a technological makeover with the i-Loom. An iPad (which you have to provide yourself) attaches in the center of the device and gives young creatives on-screen instructions to follow to make different sorts of friendship bracelet. The physical device holds various spools of colored string, and makes following the instructions easier.
Additional designs can be unlocked via in-app purchases, and kids can use the i-Loom app to create their own designs too, or share their ideas with friends via social media. The i-Loom costs around $45.
While the Kurio Watch is not the first smart watch for kids we've seen, it's probably the smartest. Though it's still not an Apple Watch Series 2 or Samsung Gear S3, youngsters can join in with the smartwatch craze with a device which boasts features including a camera, built-in games, and music playback.
It can also send messages to other Kurio watches via Bluetooth, or send photos, emojis, doodles, texts and voice messages to a paired Android app. Oh yeah, and the six to 12-year-olds it's aimed at can also use it as a watch too. The Kurio Watch is available now for $60.
We loved playing with Scalextric as kids (and still do now whenever we get the chance). However, even with its modern updates, Scalextric doesn't cut it for some youngsters today who expect a more interactive and immersive experience. Luckily, Anki has stepped in with its smart device controlled, slot-less racing track Anki Overdrive.
Users get to race and battle against each other, or cars driven by an artificial intelligence rival which learns whatever track you build with the modular sections. This year Anki has added Supertrucks into the mix which are three times the size of the usual cars and try to dominate the track. An Anki Overdrive starter kit is available for $150, with kit bundles from $200. The new Supertrucks will each cost an additional $60.
With all the hype surrounding Virtual Reality at the moment it's not surprising that kids want to get a a bit of the VR action too. However, choosing between an Oculus Rift or Sony PlayStation VR might be a bit over-the-top. Instead, the View-Master from Mattel gives a more age-appropriate VR taster of things like space, wildlife and landmarks. Users simply pop their (or their parent's) smartphone into the viewer and load the accompanying app.
Different "experiences" can then be purchased through in-app purchases. If you want a slightly more retro feeling, these can also come via wheel discs which look a bit like those used by the old stereoscopic viewers. New VR experiences added this year include Dinosaurs and Underwater. The View-Master viewer now costs around $20, with experience packs costing $8 each.
Razor RipStik Electric
We had great fun trying to get the hang of the Razor RipStik Electric, and there's a good chance your kids will too. Though we bet they'll take to it a lot faster than we did. While the new model looks like the eight-year-old original, it now features an in-wheel hub motor and is controlled by a joystick-style remote.
Users can power along at up to 10 mph (16 km/h) and steer by angling the foot over the front caster wheel. As we found out the hard way, if you fall off the RipStik Electric it comes to an abrupt standstill, so at least you don't need to worry about it running off while you are lying on your back. It's recommended for users ages nine years old, or older, and costs $150.
Nocto Robotic Bat
Nocto is a pet robot bat which is said to have 50 interactive features. It has six different moods and modes which are displayed through a series of colored lights and sound effects. Nocto will dance to music, flap its wings if you fly it around the room and can play a series of simple games.
Another feature of the bat, which can stand up or hang upside down, is a mode where kids can set it to protect their bedroom. Once armed Nocto will sound the alarm if it senses movement from parent or sibling intruders. Nocto currently sells for around $40.
Cozmo by Anki
Cozmo is yet another interactive robot friend for your child, but this one looks and feels like it's come straight from a Pixar movie. With animated eyes and the ability to recognize and look at you (thanks to a camera in his mouth), Cozmo is one of the smartest robot pals we've seen yet. The little truck robot also has a touch of WALL-E about him, which is no bad thing.
Cozmo also has an evolving personality which develops depending on how you interact with him, and he comes with a set of Power Cube game blocks to play with. Users will also interact with him via an app on a compatible iOS or Android device. Cozmo by Anki starts shipping this month priced at $180.
Nintendo Classic Mini
Okay, this one might be as much for you as it is for the little ones. The Nintendo Classic Mini is a miniaturized replica NES which comes loaded with 30 classic games including Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong. That means you get to replay the games from your youth while your kid gets a retro-game education at the hands of Mario and Link.
The Nintendo Classic Mini hooks up to your modern TV using HDMI and features differing viewing modes depending whether you want games to look pixel perfect, or as they did back in the day. It is due to be available from November priced at $60, though you'll need an additional $10 controller to get in on the two player action.
Whatever tech toys you end up getting for your kids this Christmas, make sure to have them ready to play with on the big morning. While that used to just mean having a fresh set of batteries ready, nowadays you're just as likely to need to charge the toy, install the relevant app on whatever smart device your child will have access to, and update firmware on the toy itself.