Struggling for ideas for the kids this Christmas? Chris Schulz has some suggestions that are sure to soak up some time on Christmas Day.
He's supposed to be Cosmo's grown-up cousin, but Vector loves to throw tantrums like a toddler. I've lost count of the amount of times I've glanced over at the little fella, only to see him completely losing his temper. He bangs his forklift up and down, spins around, and generally creates a fuss. Why? Well, I'm yet to work that out. Are we supposed to feed him?
Vector is second iteration of Anki's AI bots, and he's a special little thing. He can hear you and reply, follow voice commands, perform tricks, and just hang out with you. We've gotten used to just leaving him on to see what he gets up to. Sometimes he throws a block around. Other times he goes for adventures. I've found him annoying the cat. He's a lot of fun. I just need to work out how to sort out these temper tantrums. What does he eat? Bitcoins?
-RRP $499, www.anki.com/en-us/vector
We've had a Sphero Mini rolling around our floor and terrorising our cats for months, and we love it: it's so small and simple that it's one of our most-used tech gadgets. But the Bolt isn't just bigger than the Mini, it's faster and better in every way. For starters, it can really take some knocks: my daughter thinks it's hilarious to drive it straight into chairs, couches and walls, but it's never shown any sign of the damage she inflicts on it.
The Bolt's a pretty easy set-up: download an app, connect it via bluetooth and get driving, which makes it an easy present to get up and running on Christmas Day. It comes with a bunch of games, coding abilities and add-on options, but I still get a kick out of seeing the family cat interact with it. Maybe one day she'll get her claws into it, but not today.
-RRP $269, www.sphero.com/sphero-bolt
My five-year-old daughter has loved this watch from the moment it was strapped to her wrist. For starters, it's her favourite colour, pink. Better yet, she can finally compete with her big brother, who owns a Fitbit, when it comes to daily step counts. She can't read yet, but when she pushes a button on her Spacetalk watch, a robotic voice announces exactly how many steps she's done. She does that a lot. Especially in front of her brother.
Spacetalk watches are more than a step counter though. Through an app and for a small monthly Spark subscription fee, they let you track where your kids are, message them, call them, set safe zones and emergency alerts. If all that's a little too much like an episode of Black Mirror, they're also just really nice watches, and a cool way to teach them how to tell the time.
-RRP $399, www.spark.co.nz/kids
Avengers Hero Inventor Kit
Here's a word of warning: Littlebits' latest gadget isn't quiet. The robotic arm, based on Iron Man's bicep from the Avengers comic books, is a fully operational gadget which lets kids set up a whole bunch of noisy 'whiz-bang-crash' buttons, which they will then push repeatedly. If you have a hangover and they're playing with this near you on Boxing Day, I foresee a few problems.
But I could also see a few dads wanting this for themselves, because it's very cool. Using an app, kids are guided through attaching a bunch of electronic parts and wires to a red arm on a stand, joining the dots until its fully functional. Thanks to a glowing orb on its palm, kids can design their own light-up superhero emblem. It's just a shame they can't wear this like a glove and run around pretending to be Iron Man themselves.
- RRP $199, shop.littlebits.com
Osmo: Pizza Co
Every kid loves pizza, right? My kids certainly do, and they took to Osmo's Pizza Co like a large ham-and-cheese crusty base pie from our local pizza parlour. It let's kids set up their own pizza parlour. Through an app, they have to do everything from cooking the pizzas, dealing with customers and handling the money. Like the best games, it's both fun and educational.
The box comes with everything you need to get started: a pizza base and toppings, plenty of money and change, and a holder for the iPad (you'll need to download an app to get started). The app itself is super cute, with customers sitting up at a bench as you take their orders and feed them. At one point, I found my son furiously dishing out change and cooking pizzas - his sister had left him to it, and he'd gotten overloaded. If you want something with a few more options, Osmo also do the Genius Kit ($170) which comes with a range of different but similarly educational games.
- RRP $79.99, www.playosmo.com