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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Phone-controlled toys

Brands are turning to the ubiquitous phone in your pocket to find ways to make these gadgets more useful and fun.
The Business Times - September 29, 2012
By: Christopher Lim
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Phone-controlled toys Furby

Furby
$119.90

TAMAGOTCHI started the whole virtual pet craze in 1996 but two years later, a whole new creature was born that combined the novelty of an electronic pet with the physicality of a stuffed toy. After all, being able to cuddle a toy is more fun than staring at the image of one on a tiny Tamagotchi screen.

Furby and its adorable made-up language, Furbish, became a hit and sold in the tens of millions. And now, Hasbro's launched a brand-new Furby generation that takes animatronic toys to a whole new level of boisterousness.

Furby looks like a stuffed owl toy, but has the ability to tilt its body in various directions, thanks to motorised stands on its base. And its beak, eyes and ears move, too.

But none of this compares to what happens when Furby starts talking. It's actually quite noisy and its laughter borders on hysterical, but the overall effect is unexpectedly endearing. This is especially the case when you get two Furbies, place them face to face, and watch them actively converse with each other.

The real fun starts when you download the free Furby iOS app, which includes a Furbish-English dictionary as well as the ability to feed Furby food and give it stuff. The app makes a sound that's picked by Furby, which means you have to place your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad speaker-first to Furby, and also be fairly close. But it's really quite addictive. And when Furby likes something, it will make it a point to trumpet its gratitude.

Furby is available in six colours, with four more to launch by year-end, at major department stores and shops, such as Toys R Us, EpiCentre and Nubox.

Parrot AR Drone 2.0
$459

YOU know that mobile phone integration isn't an afterthought when a remote-controlled toy such as the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 doesn't come with its own remote control. The only way to use it is with a free Apple iOS or Google Android app on your phone or tablet.

The AR Drone is like a remote-controlled helicopter, but much better. It has four rotors, which makes it extremely manoeuvrable. And while the first version of the gadget launched two years ago was quite something, version 2.0 is more stable, nimble enough to flip itself around, and sports a 720p high-definition video camera that can also snap still photos.

The camera is key, because the "AR" in the name is short for augmented reality. Although the AR Drone is used as a serious tool for search and rescue, it's fun just to discover vantage points impossible to enjoy otherwise, such as the view from the top of a tower, or dangling off a cliff. Record those vistas straight to your phone, or plug a USB flash drive into the drone.

The Parrot AR Drone is available now in blue, green or yellow from Toys R Us and the Apple Store online.

Samsung NX1000
$999 with kit zoom lens

SINGLE-PURPOSE cameras and mobile phone cameras are usually thought of as competitors locked in a duel to the death, but some of them have learnt to work together.

The Samsung NX1000, for example, has Wi-Fi built in, and while it isn't the only brand that can boast this, its wireless flair doesn't require a doctorate to use. Simply rotate the mode dial to Wi-Fi and it's ready to post pictures directly to Web services such as Facebook, or send them to your phone.

The phone bit's interesting. What you need is the free Samsung MobileLink iOS or Android app, which automatically looks for your camera upon starting up. You then scroll through your photos and select some, or all, to copy to your phone or tablet.

You get the best of both worlds - picture quality from the NX1000's big image sensor that can't be matched by any phone, and the flexibility of editing snapshots on your favourite photo app and sharing it anywhere thanks to your phone's Internet connection.

The Samsung NX1000 is available in black, white or pink from most major consumer electronics stores.

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