Toys for boys (and girls) of all ages

It doesn’t seem to matter what age you are – the Nerf gun definitely seem to be the ‘toy’ of choice – I’ve seen them hidden away from 30-somethings in offices where they are supposed to be working, not messing about – and my five-year-old spends ages mooning over them in the Argos catalogue.

Red5-tings

So whatever your age, if you’re a Nerf fan you’ll be pleased to see the appearance of the Raider CS-35, which has a big drum magazine that holds 35 darts – so you can take out most of the office, or your whole class, depending on your age. A window allows you to see if your ammo is running low, it’s a rapid-fire device and the pump-action handle allows you to adjust your rate of fire. And when you lose all the darts (which you will, believe me!) you can buy refill packs. Not the cheapest of the Nerf guns at £34.95, but an essential piece of kit for your next office bonding day!

If you’d rather destroy your colleagues by boggling their minds, challenge them to complete the Perplexus Epic Puzzle. It’s a step up from those ball bearing mazes we all played with as kids. This is a 3d puzzle marathon, with a total of 125 barriers to get that little shiny ball through, as you guide it around the tracks, steps, levers, tubes and falls to reach the end of the puzzle. The price of frustration? £19.99.

Finally, if you need to relax with a good book after all that action and brain work, the Tiny Tim book light is a nifty little piece of kit that will let you read your book in bed, even if your other half wants the light out. It measures just 13cm high and can either standalone or clip on to your book. Battery powered, it comes in red or black and costs a neat £7.95.

All the gizmos featured here are available from red5.co.uk

Hands on with the Nerf Vortex blaster range

Nerf invited Latest Gadgets down to a small bar in Soho for a shoot out against some of the journalists on the London tech scene. Delighted at a chance to settle some old scores we turned up and did our best to polish off some of the competition using the four new Nerf blasters from the Vortex range. Whilst not quite up to any of the paintball episodes of Community (amazingly there have been three. More amazingly, they are all amazing).

Nerf-Vortex

The smallest in the arsenal is the Nerf Vortex Vigilon Blaster – which has rapid-reload capabilities and a built in disc clip. You push a button to release the drop down clip, pop in five little plastic discs (if you forget they are little plastics discs and try to think of them as space bullets of something it’s a little less dorky) and activate the slide mechanism to fire.

If you need to fire your little plastic disc and engage in sci-fi Western fantasies a la Trigun you might want to try your luck with the Nerf Vortex Proton Blaster, which looks ripped straight from the pages of some mecha manga I must have seen during my wasted youth. The single shot blaster carries three little plastic discs.

All these relatively modest blasters as very well and good but what happens when you want to up your pretend firepower? Well toy guns don’t come much bigger or badder than the Nerf Vortex Nitron Blaster. The first fully automatic, clip fed little plastic disc blaster in the range, the Nitron Blaster has an Electronic Targeting Scope accessory so you can really go to town on your toy-gun based revenge fantasies. Or if you prefer to pump it up, when you don’t really need it, then the Nerf Vortex Praxis Blaster is your best bet (it’s a nice update from 2010s Nerf Vortex Theoretical Blaster). Designed for long range the pump-action plaster comes with a ten-disc clip.

The new disc range is out 10 September 2011. For more information head to Nerf. Until then (or even after) you can always simply re-enact this.

Karotz internet rabbit review

Karotz – the world’s first internet rabbit. It’s got an adorable aesthetic, but is its functionality as endearing? Can a device steeped in connectivity, including Wi-Fi, internet access, a webcam, microphone, speakers, a USB port and an RFID reader live up to its potential?

Karotz

Well, sort-of. We were incredibly excited about the rabbit – it’s one of the most attractive and aesthetically fun consumer electronics devices available. It also offers huge potential – with all the technology inside, it could do almost anything.

Which is exactly the problem. Thanks to awkward voice recognition, it does do almost anything – but not what you want. Considering the device only controllable via oral commands, you can see why this was a real downer.

Note: We should mention that we received an early build – if the voice recognition issue is solved, the device could be brilliant.

We got simple tasks sorted – it responded to the voice commands for the “Home” app, which then took a picture of the speaker and sent it to our smartphone – perfect for parents waiting on children to return home from school.

Unfortunately, despite 20 minutes of trying, we only managed to get Tai Chi to work once – and then couldn’t find any way to stop it. Nor could we work out how to stop the RSS news feeds from talking when we bored of the news.

Functions such as Twitter and Facebook updates are not yet available, although the scheduling feature – choosing when the rabbit talks to you – would come in super-useful for these functions. Waking up to your Facebook feedback could be a great way to start the day.

The real promise comes from the developer community. MindScape, the company behind Kartoz, know that letting developers loose on the thing will produce the best apps. Therefore they’ve create a development kit and been completing encouraging towards third=party developers.

The results? Well, we’ll see sometime soon. What we want? Skype and Spotify, please.

Review: The HEXBUG Nano toy

Hexbug

Every so often a new craze hits the playgrounds of schools across the UK that guarantees every kid owns the latest fad. In the mid-80s in was a transformer ‘robots in disguise’ craze, in the 1990s POGS, small cardboard discs stormed into playgrounds and became a huge craze, and in the early ‘noughties’, Bratz Dolls, came and conquered, stealing Barbie’s pole position as top fashion doll. In 2011, there is a new bug sweeping across Britain’s playgrounds – the HEXBUG Nano.

These colourful creepy-crawlies are so small they can balance on the top of a kid’s finger. Although don’t be fooled by their minute size, as the Hexabug, like many minute real-life bugs, has the capacity to cause mayhem. And don’t our teachers know it!

Being powered by a tiny motor, the toy’s 12 angular legs are propelled into action, causing it to scurry across the floor, mimicking the actions of a real-life bug, as it expertly negotiates the best route, no matter how complex or difficult the terrain.

Exploiting the physics of vibration, this micro robotic creature has a remarkable sense of balance, and, similar to the traits of an actual beetle, squirms and wriggles when on its back, before flipping over and zooming off to safety. This erratic behaviour remains a persistent feature with a Hexabug, as when the little critter comes into contact with an object in its path; it hurriedly changes direction and scurries away.

Update – check out this video of the new HEXBUG Nano V2:

Not only can kids have hours of fun watching the unpredictable nature of their pet bug, but each Hexabug Nano is assigned with a unique serial number and point value system, meaning that owners can register their Hexabug online and play games, earn points, and even learn about real insects, scientists and their discoveries – Perhaps teachers won’t be as quick to confiscate Hexabugs from classrooms when they learn about the new toy craze’s educational attributes.

Costing just under £8 and being available in different colours, Hexabug Nanos are highly collectible and it is hardly surprising that Toys R Us has had to increase deliveries to keep up with the demand.

Find out more at http://www.hexbug.com/nano/

Give yourself the Sack …boy

Not since Sonic and Mario first appeared on the gaming radar has there been a more popular digital creature than Sackboy.

Sackboy is poster boy for the PS3 and star of Media Molecule’s game Little Big Planet, the very cute world-building game that allows the player to create their own dream planet, solve puzzles – and in the latest outing for Sackboy and his friends, save the entire universe.

Sackboy

With the just-released Little Big Planet 2 now busying fans with saving the Cosmos, if you, or someone you love would like their very own little Sackboy, there’s good news. True, you could knit one for them (Find out how at http://www.littlebigland.com/sackboy-saves-knitting/) but if you don’t fancy doing battle with the knitting needles, just get busy with your mouse and head on over to Firebox.com, where they have a few little Sackboy treats for you (sadly too late for Valentine’s Day).

If you need a bit of comfort when you’ve just lost the latest game or got stuck on a level, invest in the Sackboy Plush and have a little cuddle when it all gets too much for you. He comes in two sizes – 12 in tall for £7.99 and 30cm tall at £14.99. (You might be pushing it for Valentine’s Day on this one as it won’t ship until February 10/11, but you can pre-order now).

If you’re not the cuddly toy type, how about a Sackboy action figure? Available in either 3in or 6in sizes (£4.99 and £7.99 respectively), he can be posed to recreate action from the game, or sit on top of your computer or games console – if you want to appear cool (or possible totally sad) to all the kids on the bus in the morning, stick him in your pocket!

And another one in the same vein – this is Sackboy Computer Gear – this poseable figure comes in the same two sizes (albeit at a slightly more expensive £4.99 and £12.99) and is dressed as a computer (we’re not sure why, but it’s pretty cute all the same). The taller version is a limited edition for anyone who is into collectibles.

Star Wars fans of the world unite with the best Star Wars gadgets available

Since it was released in 1977, Star Wars became an American epic, possessing a longevity only a handful of movies manage to achieve and crafting the very essence of the term a ‘classic’. Naturally such a blockbuster has been followed with a steady string of memorabilia, intensifying in sophistication and innovation with each passing decade. So recognisable is the Star Wars franchise, that when Darth Vader himself marched in to this year’s CES, nobody blinked an eyelid. With such an immense amount of toys, gadgets and memorabilia dedicated to the timeless classic, we thought the Star Wars fans amongst our readers may want to learn of some of the best gadgets available dedicated to their unhealthy obsession.

Star-Wars-Gadgets
Picture courtesy of @lilstormys

Star Wars Anakin Replica FX Lightsaber

This official reproduction of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber from Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, ignites, glows and produces sound effects digitally recorded from the movie, with such realism that you think you have been beamed out of your living room and straight into Star Wars itself. The FX Lightsaber features a robust polycarbonate bright blue blade and will naturally prove to be a sensation in a home which includes any Star Wars fans. Although it will perhaps be only the most die-hard of Star Wars fans – or the parent’s of the most persuasive of children – who will part with the 360.00 euros to own one.

Star Wars: R2-D2 USB Micro Fridge

If having a cold beer easily within your reach whilst you are at your desk takes your fancy, then simply plug R2-D2 into a USB port and pop a can down his throat and by the time you’ve surfed the net for some more crazy Star Wars toys, he’ll have regurgitated the can a whole lot colder than when it went in!

Darth Vader Nintendo Wii Sensor Bar Holder

With this Wii Darth Vader Sensor Bar Holder, you can channel the force of all your games. This high-quality sculpture would make a great addition to any Star Wars-themed bedroom. Specifically made to Nintendo standards, this uniquely crafted Lightsaber has been engineered to safely support the sensor bar whilst maintaining full range and performance.

Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-Ray Disc

Ahh so that’s why Darth Vader made an appearance in Las Vegas this year, he was there to promote Star War’s announcement of Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu Ray Disc. These highly anticipated blu-ray titles will be available to own from this September. What still a whole nine months away?!

Keep down the bill on kids’ gadgets

If you’re a parent who never seems to have any spare cash come payday, we might have identified one of the reasons why. A recent survey by price comparison site Kelkoo revealed that parents spend up to £500 a year on technology for their children.

The survey also revealed that 91% of UK children between five and 16 own gadgets including games, mobiles and laptops.

To try to keep the bills down, we’ve rounded up a few more affordable gadgets that your children might just be putting on their Christmas list his year.

Binatone-Surf

Rather than a pricey laptop, how about the just-launched tablet Binatone HomeSurf, with prices starting at £129.99 – less than the cost of a lot of smartphones.

Binatone has developed the HomeSurf range to put the tablet into the hands of everyone – no matter what age, experience or technological prowess. Running Google’s Android operating system, the HomeSurf comes in two sizes – the entry level model has a 7in TFT LCD resistive touch screen that auto-rotates, and 2GB of built-in storage that can store more than 250 photos or around 500 songs, and video playback.

The HomeSurf 8 comes with a larger screen and longer video playback time, while both products feature a MicroSD card slot (SD/SDHC), built-microphone and stereo speakers, as well as a rechargeable Li-Ion battery and 3.5 mm stereo audio jack with headphones.

Budding videographers, meanwhile, can have some fun with the Kodak Mini – dubbed a perfect little camcorder for kids. It is priced at £49.99 and is waterproof up to 3m, easily transferable by USB and the size of a credit card!

There are no cables to get tangled up or lost as the Mini features a pop-out USB arm, which makes it simple to share the high-quality VGA video at 30 fps on Facebook and YouTube™ sites. You can view your videos straight away on the 4.6 cm (1.8″) LCD.

Orange, meanwhile, is aiming to bring Android to the mass market at an affordable price with the San Francisco, that comes in at £99. The stylish touchscreen Android mobile phone, priced at only £99, offers thousands of apps, the Android 2.1 operating system, an MP3 player (so no need to splash out on a separate music player) and built-in FM radio. With a 3 megapixel camera that’s also going to save you buying a separate snapper for the kids. They can share photos with friends on the go, and with WiFi, Bluetooth as well as a 3G+ connection – they should be able to upload with ease.

Top up by £10 on pay as you go Dolphin for inclusive internet, plus 300 free texts and £10 credit to spend however you want. The San Francisco supports a data capacity of up to 32GB, and comes with a 2GB microSD card inbox and in-built memory of 150MB. www.orange.co.uk.

If you can bear to share your iPhone with the kids, it makes a great alternative games console – particularly for smaller children – and a fantastic way to keep them entertained if you’re on the move in the car, train or waiting at the doctors or dentists.

Peppa-Pig-LG

And for little ones aged two to five, the new Peppa Pig app Happy Mrs Chicken, is a bargain at £1.79, and has been enormously popular – shooting straight to number one in the Top Paid Kids Games chart in the iTunes store in a few hours.

The first game lets the player make Happy Mrs Chicken lay eggs, see the eggs hatch into chicks and scurry to either side of the screen, while Chicken Coop involves sending different coloured chicks to their correctly coloured homes and includes a mode against the clock.

Visit www.playwithpeppa.com for more information, and to download head here.

Micro-Helicopter-LG

Finally for a bit of fun at a not-too-pocket-busting price, how about the mini Revell Hornet helicopter? Due for release in November, it has Gyros for added stability, and easy to operate controls, ideal for the first-time pilot, and can be used inside and out.

Priced at around £35. See www.revell.eu for more details.

And with another nod to Christmas, we also like Chatimals – a hamster that repeats anything you say in a range of different voices and pitches. A nice novelty for the festive season at £19.99 – and look out for the meerkat, due out in November. Available at www.find-me-a-gift.co.uk

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.