The best of Toy Fair 2011

Not all high-tech these days is serious. This week is the annual Toy Fair at the Javits Center in New York, where toy companies from around the world show off the coolest high-tech toys you’ve never seen. Here’s some of the somewhat frivolous – but far more fun – technology we found on, and above, the show floor.

Air Swimmers

Here’s the “above the floor” tech just alluded to. These are radio-controlled helium balloons – you get ‘em filled for a couple of bucks at any place that sells balloons (party store, flower shop, etc.). The fish runs on a single AAA battery, the remote takes three, and they’re good for around four hours of swimming, flying, or whatever they’re doing. The tail fin wiggles, and the fish seems to realistically swim in mid-air – it’s one of the damndest looking things you ever saw (as you’ll see from the video). A clown fish and shark will each cost $39.95 when they become available in July.


Unbelievably, these people have literally re-invented the wheel. The SoloWheel is essential a single-wheeled Segway; just climb on the foot wings, lean forward, and off you go. Like a Segway, it’s self-balancing. From the demo, it looks to roll at around five to seven miles an hour. It’s got an internal battery that needs 45 minutes to charge, which gives you 12 miles of travel time, augmented by the gyroscope, which recaptures movement energy. A 45-minute charge gets you 12 miles. Also like a Segway, the SoloWheel won’t be cheap – $1,500 – when it goes on sale in March.


Not getting enough zoom out of your iPhone 4 camera? Snap on a special case and screw in the longer lens, which will bring you 8x closer than any zoom you slide to on the iPhone. Also included in the kit ($39.99) is a tripod, which you’ll definitely need – with that much zoom there’s no way to keep the image from shaking as if the iPhone were clamped in a hardware store paint mixer. The EyeScope comes in black or white versions to match your phone.


Supposedly the iPad’s touchscreen and accelerometer is the ultimate controller, but some folks just love the feel of a joystick. Here’s the best of both worlds : It’s a joystick that you plop over the touch direction controls on most iPad games with its non-scratch suction cup. About the size and shape of a chess pawn, Joystick-It has capacitive fibers on its bottom that carry the same electrical impulses as your fingers, and providing more natural, responsive and usually faster control. You can even use two joysticks simultaneously – they run $24.99 for a single Joystick-It or $39.99 for a pair.


Who needs instruments when you can literally trip the light fantastically with BeamzPlayer ($199.99). Connect the player to your Windows PC (no Mac) and you wave your hands to disrupt beams of laser lights to create music. You can trigger musical notes, vocals, sound effects, rhythm, even scratching, to either 50 included songs for game playing, or simply compose your own laser magnum opus.

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