Tamagotchi is back and this time it’s social

BandaiTamagotchiFriends5Do you remember the 1990s? The decade of Generation X, Cool Britannia, raves, grunge, dressing down, Baywatch, roller blades and Tamagotchi.

Ah yes, Tamagotchi, the digital pet that first launched in Japan in 1996 and took Britain by storm the following year. Small enough to fit on a keyring, the Tamagotchi would ‘hatch’ on screen and required feeding and nurturing in order to keep it ‘alive’ and happy. It introduced a generation of children to the concept of keeping a pet without all the messy cleaning out of cages and burying of deceased gerbils at the bottom of the garden. Because of the attention it demanded it was also widely confiscated by a generation of school teachers.

Now 17 years and 80 million units on the Tamagotchi is set to be relaunched by Bandai Toys. Already predicted to be a best seller as Generation Xers revisit their childhood on their own offspring the new Tamagotchi Friends will go on sale on Boxing Day.

The latest incarnation of the toy has kept the look of the classic ’90s model but now has short range communication technology similar to the NFC feature found in smartphones. This enables Tamagotchi owners to ‘bump’ with other Tamagotchi Friends to send text messages, exchange gifts and even go on a date. ‘Bumping’ leads to more points and rewards being earned and a raised score on the best friend meter.

The new Tamagotchi also includes new characters, five games, a pause function, on-off sound and the ability to interact with a new Tamagotchi Friends website at www.tamagotchifriends.com.

Bandai Marketing Director, Darrell Jones, who worked on the original Tamagotchi launch says, “In the 90s, Tamagotchi paved the way for a digital age in toys so we are incredibly excited to be giving the hugely popular, classic toy a modern day update. The innovative features, including the new characters and the short range communication ‘bump’ feature, will entertain a whole new generation of Tamagotchi fans. We’re really looking forward to seeing Tamagotchi being welcomed into homes and playgrounds across the country, and once again becoming an important member
of everyone’s family.”

Announcing the launch of the latest Tamagotchi the Daily Mail is quick to point out that the original, “…led to pupils the world over being distracted in class as they frantically tried to keep their Tamagotchi’s alive. It was a big enough problem for teachers in some schools that the toys were banned.”

Wired wonders how much of the mechanics of the original will be carried though to the new version, “…pets back in the day could (and would) die, which resulted in news reports about sad children. You might also wake up one morning to discover your Tamagotchi had spent its waking moments producing vast quantities of dung — something that may clash with the cute aesthetic of Kiraritchi, the cute Tamagotchi Friends character who aspires to be a pop star. Will I be cleaning up her ‘downloads’? Will she contract a disease and die if I don’t? She would have with the originals, but that might stop parents spending money with the brand if they see their kids upset at the sight of a dead pop idol.”

Pocket Lint attributes the relaunch to the success of the Tamagotchi L.I.F.E. iPhone and Android app which saw some 2.5 million downloads within 90-days of its release in February this year.

If all this has you ready to shop like it’s 1997, Tamagotchi Friends are priced at £24.99 and will be available via high street retailers from 26 December or they can be pre-ordered now from Amazon and The Entertainer.

Xmas gadgets you can play with when the kids have gone to bed

Hands up anyone who’s bought their one-year-old son a Scalextric for Christmas – just so you can play with it yourself – yes, we know who you are. And you’re not alone, so we’ve put together a few other treats that the kids will love finding in their stocking in Christmas morning, and which you can play with once they’re tucked up fast asleep on Christmas night.

kurio-10

Let the kids loose with their own tablet. The Kurio is a safe and versatile Android tablet for families. In seven- and 10-inch models it will keep kids and adults entertained with a range of preloaded games such as Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Fruit Ninja, plus it can be used to watch movies, read books and listen to music. The special bumper ensures it can withstand the odd knock too. The tablet features the KurioGenius Advanced safe web filtering, time control lock and the easy-to-use Parental Area, which can be set for up to eight different profiles ensuring content is appropriate for the whole family.

It appears in the Top Ten Christmas Toys by John Lewis, was voted Best Of Show at this year’s Toy Fair on the recommendation of The Gadget Show, given a 5-star rating by Android magazine and Best Overall Toy by Right Start magazine

The 7in Kurio retails at £149.99 and the 10in Kurio at £199.99.

attacknid

Battling Robots! Okay they’ve moved on a bit since the Raving Bonkers boxing robots from the 70s.  Attacknids are battling robots that can move 360 degrees and are remote controlled. The legs have been designed to move quickly and spring-loaded battle armour can be attached easily but only falls off when hit by an opponent. A 2GHx chip means you can connect up to 40 Attacknids for multiplayer awesomeness. They’ve already won awards and been named in the Toys R Us Top Twenty Terrific products for 2012. They cost £69.99 from Toys R Us and other retailers. More at www.combatcreatures.com

Space-Tablet

Find out about space with the National Geographic Space Tablet, a sleek and high tech looking device which offers young explorers an introduction to other worlds. Touch the icons to find fascinating facts, then test your knowledge in the quiz. For ages 4+, the tablet costs £19.99 from John Lewis and Shop Direct.

Razor-E90

Scooters have gone electric this year – if you want to pop out to the corner shop early on Boxing Day hop on the kids’ Razor 90. For ages eight and above, this electric scooter has a push button start and foot brake if they need to slow down. £149.99 from Toys R Us.

lego-technic

Get your haul on with the Lego Technic Logging Truck (£99.99). Use the Power Functions control box for some serious lifting action. This massive model also has functioning steering, doors and hood that open, plus a detailed engine bay with working piston engine. Should you want to demolish hours of building joy within seconds, the 1,308 pieces can be rebuilt into a container truck with snow-plough! More at Technic.LEGO.co.uk

drone

If you’ve got teenagers, how about the v929 Turbo Drone RC Quadrocopter from Paramount Zone? This remote control copter is suitable for ages 15+, and has LED lights and boasts the latest in Quad-Rotor technology. Suitable for indoor and outdoor use it’s pretty speedy and with a little practice it’s even possible to completely flip the ‘copter 360 degrees midflight! £49.99 in delivery from ParamountZone.com

Christmas gifts for movie fans

Okay, so maybe you didn’t stretch to splashing out for James’ Bond’s Honda CRF250R motorbike from the Skyfall movie – you’d have needed £101,400 to win it on the eBay auction that raised funds for BBC Children in Need.

But here are a few other movie-inspired gadgets that should keep the film fans among your friends and family happy this Christmas.

xperia-t

Bond’s phone in that movie was of course the Sony Xperia T, with its 4.6in touchscreen, powered by Sony’s Bravia technology, along with a 13-megapixel camera. The phone also has Walkman and xLOUD technology for listening to your favourite tunes and is Playstation certified for games fans.
From £399, more at Sony Mobile.

The Force will definitely be with Santa this Christmas, as there’s a whole host of treats for Star Wars fans.

Remote-Control-r2D2

Who knew you could live without an Inflatable R2D2, for instance? Bring your favourite droid to life with the aid of a foot pump. The remote controlled inflatable R2D2 also self-corrects if it falls over.
Inflatable R2D2, £49.99 from Find Me A Gift.

Star-Wars-Alarm-Clock

Now you Can throw things at the walls, as part of your Jedi Training. This Star Wars Alarm Clock, which has been designed to look like a Jedi Training Remote costs £19.99 and can only be switched off is you throw it against the wall!

Spiderman-Glove

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can – and now you can too – well okay, you probably won’t go swinging from building to building and fighting crime, but you can shoot webs with the Hasbro Amazing Spider-Man Mega Blaster Web Shooter With Glove.

SpiderMan-Glove-kit

The web shooter has been reinvented based on the latest costume and web shooters from the upcoming film, The Amazing Spider-Man. For the first time, Spider-Man will have mechanical web shooters in the movie and this Christmas you can play along with this glove and shooter combo, which shoots a fun ‘web’ string. Toys R Us, £22.99

R2D2-money-bank

Keep your savings out of harm’s way by hiding them in this R2D2-shaped money box, which can only be opened with a secret four-digit code. It features sound and light effects and a free app can be downloaded onto your Phone to really get the best out of the device. The moneybox costs £29.99 from Find Me A Gift.

Barclaycard Toys Unleashed: Augmented reality in the palm of your hand

When Barclaycard invited me to a trendy East London dim sum restaurant to preview their new augmented reality gaming app I was confused, flattered and desperate to try the scallion pancakes.

If you think of Barclaycard as a credit card company you’d be 100% correct. It’s in the name. But they’d like you to think beyond their obvious function and to reposition themselves as a “payment provider”. To raise awareness of this function and to further develop innovate ways to part you with your cash such as the PayTag which we covered here Barclaycard are constantly on the lookout for ways to raise their profile. Obviously they have an advertising campaign (that had passed me by as I sold my soul to Netflix a long time ago) but an interesting sign of the times is that they have developed an iPhone game to go along with the campaign – Toys Unleashed.

toys-unleashed

What I found most interesting was that this wasn’t the first time they’d done this and that it’s a successful way of marketing. I was also impressed that something as fusty as a credit card company would be so bold as to jump on the apps bandwagon. In another life I worked for top-tier finance companies and their reluctance to embrace technology in any way shape or form was breathtaking.

One of Barclaycard’s recent apps, Waterslide Extreme had 20 million downloads and one of the developers told me that there are probably a fair few kids deep in America’s heartland that probably think Barclaycard just make games.

Toys Unleashed is an Augmented Reality children’s game where you hold a tiny avatar in the palm of your hand. You can feed a monkey or battle spaceships with a small robot. It’s mildly distracting but probably best suited for those 10 and under.

The most interesting thing about the app however (apart from its role as an integrated marketing strategy) is its augmented reality functionality. Rather than having to lay down a marker and having that be a focal point that the app interacts with the developers were able to use your skin as a marker, which is actually a pretty impressive feat of programming involving lots of motion tracking. The practical upshot of this is that you can simply hold out your palm and the phone will recognise and interact with it.

The Barclaycard Toys Unleashed iPhone app is free and out now.

Gun Stylus Assault Rifle Limited Edition

I have personally never been an advocator of toy rifles, or war gaming for that matter that requires the use of virtual guns, due to the simple reason that they encourage violence. When therefore I read a press release from the creative interactive software developers, Plow Games, about the arrival of the Gun Stylus Assault Rifle Limited Edition, a gun that you point at an iPhone, iPad or other touch devices to control gaming heroics with greater precision and depth, my immediate reaction was “Is Plow Games having a laugh?”

Gun-Stylus

With an ‘attention-grabbing’ headline, “Zombies fear it – Other Stylus want to be it; The Gun Stylus Assault Rifle Edition makes you cool without trying”, introducing the press release, you can understand what why I felt compelled to laugh!

Although I am sure not everyone will share my mockery, as for any war gaming enthusiasts out there, the ‘killer stylus’, that enables you to ‘shoot, navigate, signature, paint and draw’ at your touch device, would be, as Plow Game’s puts it, “A prized addition to every war gamer’s mobile collection.”

The black toy gun made from a durable plastic features several ‘unique’ features that apparently gives it the ‘edge’ over other gaming accessories. One such feature is the Stylus touch chamber, which apparently improves experiences with applications for navigating, gaming/playing and sketching. The limited edition gaming rifle even includes a Lanyard slot, which means wannabie soldiers can keep their weapon at the ready to draw when needed. Although it has to be said, perhaps the Gun Stylus Assault Rifle’s greatest asset is that it will keep your iPhone, iPad, Android or whatever touch device you may have, screen clean of fingerprints!

In priding itself on developing ‘oh-my-gosh-have-you-seen-that’ products, Plow Games certainly have excelled themselves in creating the admittedly highly creative Gun Stylus Assault Rifle Limited Edition.

For more information about the Gun Stylus visit http://www.weaponstylus.com

My Keepon and Air Swimmers: New kids gadgets from Wow! Stuff!

If you’re looking to for a memorable toy to buy the kids this Christmas, then perhaps look no further than two new toys from the British-based toy manufacturer Wow! Stuff! – A limited edition interactive robot called My Keepon and remote controlled fish known as Air Swimmers.

Wow-Stuff

Going into partnership with the US-based robot designer Beatbots, the soon to be available my Keepon has apparently been tipped by retailers to ‘steal the limelight this Christmas.’ No sooner was this little robotic toy, which resembles Sooty without any ears, was featured dancing on a video of indie rock band Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On”, ‘My keepon’ became an instant Internet sensation, boasting 6 million views on YouTube worldwide.

Recognising its potential to be a success beyond the digital boundaries of the World Wide Web, Wow! Stuff! is bringing a real version of My Keepon to the masses, which, having an array of touch sensors hidden underneath his skin, responds to every tickle, pat and squeeze. This loveable robotic toy can even sneeze, scratch his nose, act sad, sleepy, inquisitive, giggly and not to mention dance. With a built-in microphone in My Keepon’s nose, kids can listen to the music they play whilst their new friend mimics the beats – no wonder he’s been dubbed as stealing the toy limelight this Christmas!

This fluffy, yellow boogie toy is suitable, we are told, for children ages six and over and will soon be available at Toys R Us, Hamleys and Argos.

Although also battling for the number one toy spot this Christmas is Wow! Stuff!’s other audacious creation – giant sized flying fish known as Air Swimmers. These colossal flying fish come in two different species, an intimidating flying shark or an equally as frightening airborne clownfish – no wonder their only suitable for kids aged eight and upwards!

With radio controlled handsets, kids can play games and manoeuvre the helium-filled fish in whatever direction they desire – Scenes of nightmarish bedlam on Christmas day are beginning to fill my mind!

If making your child’s Christmas dreams come true this year by letting them wake up to the latest interactive toy this Christmas then head on down to Argos to pick up a giant Air Swimmer – although with a helium-filled fish this colossal, storing it may prove problematic!

Wow! Stuff!

Is it a plane, is it a bird? No it’s a Sky Car

We’re overrun in our house with remote control cars, so something has to be pretty special to grab out attention.

Enter the Sky Car – is it it a car? Is it a helicopter – well, yes, it’s both!

Sky-Car

This is a neat little piece of kit (it measures just 19x8x9cm) -– get it out of the box and you could be forgiven for thinking that it feels rather flimsy, but take it from me, it has survived being bashed by a broomstick handle (more of which later) so is far stronger than your first impressions may suggest.

The other thing that might be disappointing for anyone who is overrun with battery-run gadgets is that you’ll need six – yes six! – AA batteries to run the remote control – and the cheap ones won’t last long as we discovered.

However, it does work really well – in fact a bit too well. I took the helicopter out into the field behind our house (we’d tried it indoors and nearly decapitated the cats, so outside it was). Unfortunately while I was busy marvelling at how quickly it had shot up high into the sky, I suddenly realised that it was heading over the hedge and into the field behind – sometimes empty, sometimes full of sheep, so I panicked, dropped it down and got it stuck on a 10ft hedge.

After much muttering, poking and prodding, my lovely husband came to the rescue with a broom handle (hence the bashing it got). I nervously picked it up off the ground, expecting bent rotor blades, missing wheels and so on, only to find it in perfect working order (The makers do include spare blades in the box, so they obviously expect some collateral damage).

This is a cool piece of kit – its headlights turn on when you switch on the sky car, and it can be charged using USB – it took about 20 minutes on my laptop.

However, be aware that it takes a bit of practise to perfect your flying skills – and it moves pretty quickly, so you’ll need more space than you might expect from a small device. Driving it in car mode is far easier!

At a smidge under 30 quid, it’s not bad value, but it is definitely more suitable for an older child or adult than younger kids unless they have a good bit of supervision.

Available from Gizoo

Battle it out on your desk with the TankBots

If you find you’re getting too much work done in a day, you could always distract yourself and your colleagues with the latest ‘pets’ to hit the market. The TankBots are robotic desk pets that come in a choice of four colours and can be controlled using an iPhone, iPad or Android device. An added bonus is that they need no ‘feeding’ or ‘petting’ like lots of electronic pets.

Tankbots

These cute mini robotic tanks can be played with in three ways (hey it makes a change from cyberstalking your exes on Facebook, surely?). Forget those spreadsheets, page proofs or marketing reports – instead spend some productive time setting up an obstacle course along your desk (and that of any participating colleagues) and set the deskpet to maze mode. Time how long it takes your little android apprentice to escape.

Alternatively, set the TankBot to roaming mode and your pet will just head off on its own, using its infrared sensors to avoid any obstacles and making the obligatory tank sounds.

Finally, you can set it up in remote control mode, using any iPhone, iPad or Android 2.1 device (and a free downloadable app) to control your desk pet. Each differently coloured bot operates on its own frequency, so there are plenty of opportunities for a few of you to join in with your own TankBot – we foresee, obstacle course races, and TankBot battles aplenty. You could even have your own in-office TankBot Olympics.

The TankBots from Desk Pets can be charged via USB and costs £24.95 from Red5.co.uk. They will arrive in store on September 20 2011.