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.

SoloWheel

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.


EyeScope

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.

Joystick-It

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.

BeamzPlayer

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.

Zoomy

Capture VGA images and video of a world beyond human vision with this egg-sized 43x microscope. Zoomy ($59.99) connects to and is powered by its USB connection to either a Windows or a Mac PC – no batteries necessary. The LED illuminating light and focusing automatically adjust. Included editing and special effects software turn your insect footage into – well, not art exactly, but something sci-fi, weird and mysterious.

Meon

Needlepoint is neither cool nor high-tech, unless you’re weaving with these strands of colored electro-luminescent wire dubbed “Meon.” You weave the wire through a grid of holes in a plastic frame that correspond to licensed characters, or freestyle to form a picture of your own choosing. Once complete, you plug the finished Meon needlework into a base powered by a C battery, which will light your creation for 50 hours. The Meon wires themselves will last 5,000 hours. There are three different kits, each with an increasing number of included colored Meon wires (from one to eight), ranging between $9.99 and $34.99. At the higher-end, your masterpiece can be animated to respond to ambient music or a motion sensor.

Mimobot Batman Flash Drives

These Batman flash thumb drives won’t help you fight crime, but they may alleviate some office boredom. You get either classical Batman or modern, Robin, Joker or Catwoman. They’re each available in 2GB to 16GB sizes from $19.95 to $59.95.

Hot Wheels Video Racer

Want to get a floor-eye view of your Hot Wheels’ travels? These 1:64 scale cars ($59.99) can record up to 12 minutes of footage, either as the car is rolling by itself, or you snap it into its protective case and strap it to a moving gadget – RC car, skateboard, bikes, helmets, or whatever you dream up. You can view your footage on the LCD screen on the Hot Wheels under-carriage, or use the included color-matched USB cable to view it on your PC. When you can actually buy it this fall, you’ll also get editing software to let you make your own POV racing movie.

80s Retro Phone Case

Arguably the weirdest iPhone case ever, this case ($19.99) will make your phone bigger and clunkier just so it can become a literal and figurative conversation piece – a replica of what clunky cellphones looked like in the mid-1980s. You slide the back off and snap any iPhone inside it. Interestingly, the hollow space behind the earpiece actually increases call volume – maybe it creates an echo chamber of sorts. A separate app that put a retro dial pad on the screen would have completed the time travel illusion – but Thumbs Up has time to cook one up since the retro case won’t go on sale until April.

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