Griffin Helo TC Assault: Android and iOS-powered helicopter dogfights

As a child of the 80s I have a love for helicopters that is almost entirely based on the TV show Airwolf, in which Stringfellow Hawke, a loner who lives in a cabin outside of LA, accompanied only by his Bluetick Coonhound, “Tet”, and his priceless collection of paintings, serenading eagles with his equally priceless Stradivarius cello, flies a top secret military helicopter. They don’t make TV shows like that anymore. Thank God.

However, Griffin have kept my ”Knight Rider in a Helicopter”-based dreams alive by extending their AppPowered Accessories range, to the HELO TC Assault – a missile-launching touch-controlled helicopter for iOS and Android devices.

Helo-TC

In the box is a helicopter and flight deck module that you slide your phone into (kudos to Griffin for making an accessory compatible with a large number of smartphones). The flight deck transmits infrared signals to the helicopter giving you total flying control – although it can take a little time to get used to the control mechanism.

The helicopter can be charged from any USB power source and has a flying time of approximately 8 minutes, not a problem if you’re whizzing around the office, but a bit of an annoyance if you’re outside (although to be fair this is a problem with most RC devices). The actual helicopters are built on a light weight metal frame with a black polycarbonate body. The Helo TC can record and store up to 3 flight plans, and has 5 super-bright LEDs for night flying.

The Helo TC Assault features six live-fire missiles, launched and two flight modes – on screen controls or Tilt-to-Fly, which utilises your smartphone’s accelerometer. Neither mode was able to stop me from repeatedly crashing into my wall, so I’m guessing Pilotwings on the SNES deceived me about the extent of my flying skills. Fortunately the HELO TCs come with replaceable main and tail rotor systems.

Check out some footage of the helicopter zipping around here

Pricing and Availability
The HELO TC Assault, RRP £49.99, is available now from Vodaphone stores nationwide

Hands on with the latest Griffin App Powered Accessories gear

Griffin were kind enough to invite us down to a space-age camper van in Central London to play with their latest and greatest App Powered Accessories range and nibble on a doughnut. How could we say no?

Crayola

Our inner child was delighted to play with the Crayola Colour Studio HD, that leveraged hundreds of pounds worth of cutting edge technology to replicate scribbling with crayon. And it was totally worth it. A Griffin rep patiently explain all the subtleties of the app to me, subtleties that were totally lost as I was hard a work colouring in a monster and some curtains. It’s incredibly engrossing and with the well-designed iMarker digital stylus, you can easily forget you aren’t colouring in with a conventional crayon and just focus on enjoying the experience. iMarker safely interacts with iPad’s Multi-Touch display, allowing the ColorStudio HD app to differentiate between the child’s input (fingers, swipes, etc.) and the iMarker automatically. Of course they bring a little more to the table than simply colouring in and in ColourStudio HD you can create pages that move and react as they colour; combining custom-produced pictures, animations, music, sound effects and high quality special effects.

Our inner middle age man was delighted by the sensible remote control solution the Beacon Universal Remote. Griffin has partnered with software developer Dijit to make an iOS Universal Remote Control app, enabling fingertip control of your entire entertainment system, thanks to hardware and app integration from Griffin and Dijit. The Dijit app uses a constantly updated device code library to make setting up controls for your TV, set-top box, sound system, media players and more simple and intuitive and for components not yet included in Dijit’s library, the app also includes an integrated learning feature. We were a little disappointed that the iPad app was simply an iPhone app scaled up, but “they are working on it”.

TC-Velo

Best of all, our outer child was ebullient to play with the Helo TC, a iOS controlled helicopter. Charged via the magic of USB, the Helo TC is navigated by a flight deck module that slots into your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and transmits infrared signals to the helicopter giving you total flying control. There are two flight modes available, you can use the Multi-Touch display to control the Helo TC’s throttle and flight controlled joystick or Helo TC’s Tilt-to-Fly, which uses the iOS device’s accelerometers to control the helicopter’s flight.

We were crest-fallen told have the flight desk, which feels nice and chunky, placed in our hands, only to be told that we had a flightless prototype in our hands. However our spirits perked up again when they told us the prototype was the only one in the UK and the dinky little helicopter we’d had our grubby mitts all over was worth £10,000. The actual version will be ready for Christmas and will sell for much, much less.

Beacon Universal Remote is available this month from Apple stores nationwide and online for £54.99.

Crayola ColorStudio HD, £24.99, from Apple, includes Crayola iMarker digital stylus (AA batteries included), a free download of the ColorStudio HD App, periodic content updates, and built-in user tutorials.

TC Helo will be available in time for Christmas and can be yours for under £40.

For more information, visit www.griffintechnology.com

iRemoco: Remote control helicopter for the iPhone

iPhones are cool,  but everything is so virtual. If you want to use your iPhone for physical fun, you’ll need iRemoco – a remote control helicopter for the iPhone, iPod and iPad. Using a special adapter that plugs into your iDevice, full control of a model helicopter is at your phone’s command.

iRemoco

The toy helicopter comes with the usual array of accessories: there’s the helicopter itself, a USB charging cable, some spare rotor blades (extremely useful) and the iRemoco Controller. The helicopter and the controller both require charging from a USB device – neither can draw power directly from the iPhone (it’s an Apple thing).

The controller – a red tubey thing, plugs into the foot of your iPhone to send information to the helicopter. Then you simply download the iRemoco App onto your iOS device and you’re free to fly.

The app has two control options – joysticks or motion control. Personally, we’ve never got on with any motion control apps, but it’ll be otherworldly to pilot a real helicopter by tilting a phone. We definitely want to give it a try – although being reared on the Playstation, we know that joysticks will help us out. Whatever controls you chose, it’s great that iRemoco give users the choice.

The screen displays battery information for the helicopter, as well as allowing trim adjustments and multiple helicopter control. Unfortunately, that’s not simultaneously – you can switch between different channels to control different helicopters, one at a time. We can imagine the problems controlling a whole fleet of helicopters in unison – but it would still be awesome-cool.

The device works with the iPod touch 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Gen, iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS & iPhone 4, as well as both iPads. The range is 10 meters.

Head to the company’s kickstarter page for more information.

Best toy helicopters: Our pick of the bunch

Helicopters are awesome. Unfortunately, most people can’t afford to buy one, and if they could, wouldn’t know how to fly it. Toy manufacturers noticed this injustice and have been hard at work creating simple, cheap models for us to pilot. At this year’s London Toy Festival, we looked at hundreds of helicopters with innovative features, cool aesthetics and unique control styles – here’s our pick of the bunch.

skybots

1. The Flying Skybot

Bring aerial death from above for up to eight minutes with the Gyro Flying Skybot from Terox Toys. It’s got two rotors on the top, and a tiny tail rotor on the rear for increased stability. It’ll charge in 20-30 minutes and can be controlled up to 10 metres away. Did we mention it’s in the shape of a Transformer?

2. iPhone Controlled Helicopter

Also from Terox Toys, the iPhone ‘copter costs £49.99 and comes with an IR unit to plug into the iPhone. From there, download the app and you’ll be able to fly your helicopter straight from your mobile. It comes with a remote, too, but that’s mainly for squares. Six – eight minutes in the air off a 20 – 30 minute charge.

3. Airhogs HawkEye

The ever first indoor helicopter with a built-in video camera has landed. It can take five minutes of footage at 320×240, or hundreds of photos at a resolution of 640×480. And you needn’t worry about voyeurs, either – there’s a big red light to indicate when filming has started.

Once you’re done, plug the helicopter into the remote, then the remote into your computers USB and drag and drop your files – no special software, no system compatibility issues. A nice touch: the ‘copter will charge while you upload.

When you buy the HawkEye, you also gain access to the company’s online editing software. Mass-up videos, change the length, and add images and sounds until you’ve got a complete story. Then post to YouTube and Facebook. Their web site is at www.airhogs.com

4. Airhogs Sharpshooter

For every creative-type, there’s someone equally as destructive. Those people are covered by the Sharpshooter. The Sharpshooter can carry two rockets, perfect for shooting at the HawkEye and annoying a budding director. Or, send it across the office and spill someone’s tea. You needn’t worry about losing a rocket, either – six are included.

5. The Halo Flying Hornet

We know we’re suckers for liking a shameless cash-in, but the Flying Hornet from IMC Toys looks pretty awesome – even if you’re not a Halo fan. The extra plastic bits don’t do anything, but they sure look cool.

Ingenious gadget gift ideas

It’s never a bad time to give a gift to a loved one (especially if that loved one is you) and our friends at Firebox.com sent us a few ideas that caught our eye.

Firebox-Gadgets

Tip & Tilt Internet Radio

Knobs, buttons, switches and dials won’t impede the design of this cutely colourful radio. Move between radio stations by turning the radio from side to side, adjust the volume by tilting it back and forth and to mute the little blighter simply lay it on its front. Although a radio this novel will cost you, £89.99 to be exact.

Immortal Video Glasses

For any video game fanatics in your life – almost everybody with a teenage son or daughter – these amazing specs will hold you in eternal endearment. Armed with a built-in widescreen VGA video camera, the Immortal Video Glasses are able to store and shoot up to 3 hours of video-quality footage, meaning hands are free for whatever the game necessitates them to do. These surprisingly light, easy controlled video glasses come with 3 sets of interchangeable lenses for maximum visibility in all light conditions. They don’t come cheap though – £239.99 to make a teenager smile? Yeah it’s got to be worth it!

Gyro Flyer Apache R/C Helicopter

Boys will always be boys no matter how old they are, and when it come to ‘toys’, boys cannot fail to feel important and jubilant when flying a remote controlled helicopter. With a 3 channel control system, the Gyro Flyer Apache R/C Helicopter can be flown up to ten metres away, leaving its ‘pilot’ with complete control. Incorporating an auto-balance system, this sleek and inventive machine is ultra-stable, and with several LED lights flashing away under its tail, flyers of the Gyro Apache will feel extra regal and dignified when flying this classy remote controlled helicopter – a great little gift for just £29.99

Marshall Headphones

£89.99 may be slightly on the ‘steep’ side for a pair of headphones, although with claims that they bring you ‘closer to the live, rock experience’, you may be willing to depart with a large chunk of well earned cash a try out Marshall’s new headphones. Possessing a super soft ear cushion, these fully collapsible headphones are great for travelling and are that comfy, you may even fall asleep in them.

For more info, check out www.firebox.com

What’s new in the DraganFlyer X6 helicopter?

DraganFlyer

We originally covered the DraganFlyer back in February. That unmanned airborne vehicle (UAV) was the X4 and cost £12,000. Ten months on and the new DraganFlyer X6 model is out, with two more X’s and £10,000 on to the price tag. So what does the X6 add that makes it soar above its predecessor and rivals?

Aside from a longer flight time and the ability to carry a heavier load, the new incarnation of the remote control helicopter features one big upgrade: the spring centred throttle. When the pilot lets go of the throttle, the UAV will no longer plummet to the ground, shattering a £20k investment. Instead, it’ll return to a central position and maintain its height through “altitude hold”. It also comes with a new automatic take-off procedure, so the pilot can set the vehicle up, slide the throttle up and watch it take off to around one metre off the ground. The pilot can then fly it in any direction, or ascend higher into the skies.

Check some sample footage out here:

This means it’s easier than ever to keep a stable picture, so photos of videos taken from the X6 will be better than ever. It also means the chance of crashing is greatly reduced – especially as the device floats out of sight. If you do lose it, or somehow manage to fly out of range, the DraganFlyer’s self-preservation training kicks in, initiating an automatic landing sequence and continuing its onboard flight recorder.

The battery gives about 15 minutes of flight time, which is monitored through the control unit. Other information wirelessly sent back include a video feed, the device’s orientation and motion (with onboard GPS), data from three accelerometers, three gyros and barometric pressure sensor to judge the altitude and positioning adjustments.

You’ll also be able to remotely control the onboard camera’s zoom, tilt and shutter. Quick-release landing gear and camera equipment make for easy transportation in your backpack once grounded.

Firebox Christmas Preview: MiLi iPhone Projector, Gyro Flyer, Lomo Panoramic 360 camera

Latest Gadgets were invited to see the goodies that will be available at Firebox.com this Christmas. You probably know Firebox.com as they offer a range of products including quirky gadgets to random toys, but are almost always unusual and exciting. Here are our top gadgets to watch out for.

LoMi-iPhone-projector

Ever wanted to watch a video stored on your iPhone on a big screen? The MiLi iPhone Projector projects video and photos from your iPhone to any wall spanning up to 70 inches. If you do not have an iPhone, don’t worry as it connects to the Blackberry via USB and DVD players, mp3 players and mobile phones via the AV-in plug. The projector produces a 640×780 VGA image which is not bad for a portable projector. You can connect it to your laptop if you have the video or presentation saved on your laptop. On the audio side of things, it has built-in 2W speakers and if you really want to pump up the volume, you have the option to add speakers using the AV-out slot. The optimal projection size is 40 inches and it has a handy remote. A charge time of 4.5 hours provides 2 hours of projection time, just enough time for a movie. The MiLi iPhone Projector beats it nearest competitor, Optoma Pico PK 101 DLP Projector, as it has more battery life and can provide a larger image if you want to go to 70 inches. With its clamshell design, it is portable and perfect for travellers. I would have liked a higher resolution but there has to be a trade-off with portability and other features. Available for £219.99 here.

Firebox

We also got to play with the Gyro Flyer R/C Helicopter. This remote-controlled helicopter is easy to fly and well built so you can crash it a few times like I did and it will be just fine. Once you get the hang of the controls you will be up, up and away. The Gyro Flyer can be controlled with precise movements so you can land perfectly and it has an advanced gyroscope for in-flight stability. The remote is twin-toggle transmitter that doubles as a charger. A 20 min charge gives 6-8 minutes of flying time. It’s a short time but it will be fun. It does not have the video that the Hawk Eye Spy-Copter has but it is sturdy and great for kids. Available for £39.99 here.

360-degree-lomo-cam

The Lomo Panoramic 360° Camera is a camera with a difference. It provides a whole different view on things as it captures 360° panoramic images of everything around you. It uses 35mm film and a manual rubber band drive. It works by you grabbing the handle, pull the ripcord and the Lomo will spin round 360° taking everything in view. The shots are 4 times longer than a standard landscape shot. This would great for holidaymakers so you can get some unique shots.  The Lomo generates up to eight 360° shots on a regular 36 exposure 35 mm roll. I know it uses 35mm roll which some of you may consider ancient but I think the shots you can get are worth it. If this could be made to take digital photos this would be faultless. It is a fairly large camera so you will need space for it. Available for £99.99 here.