Awesome Stuff: Tech Toys

from the all-play-and-some-work dept

This week, we've got a lineup of crowdfunded fun with three high-tech toys, only one of which is designed primarily for kids (and it's the most mature and productive of the three).


The foam dart arms race continues with the FDL-1, which may be the most fearsome contender yet. It's a high-power, fully-automatic robotic dart launcher that can be configured as a standalone turret or a handheld blaster. But the truly cool part is how it's made: apart from the electronic guts, the entire thing can be produced with most average hobbyist 3D printers with a 6" cube build size (not just high-end professional numbers). All of the schematics, instructions and software is open source and/or Creative Commons ShareAlike, so upon release the FDL-1 will be free and easy for anyone to build and modify. In the mean time, its 3D-printed construction also enables several ways to order one on Kickstarter at different tiers (though the prices of all three are high): as a 3D printing kit that includes components and filament, as an assembly kit with components and pre-printed pieces, or as a fully assembled unit.


Though I'm sure there are plenty of kids who wouldn't mind getting their hands on an FDL-1, it's a pretty advanced project with a price tag of several hundred dollars to boot. In the mean time, there's the Kamibot: a papercraft robot kit designed to teach kids to code. To keep things at a beginner's level, the robot itself is a single pre-made unit based on open source Arduino, with IR and ultrasound sensors, multicolor LEDs, and a single servo in addition to its dual-motor drive. It's wirelessly controllable and, more importantly, highly programmable via a robust drag-and-drop "learn to code" interface. To keep things fun and interesting for kids, it also has a bunch of papercraft templates for building cool-looking skins on top of the robot itself, from tanks to Frankenstein.


"Moving seats" that rise and fall and tilt and sway according to what's on screen were a staple of Universal Studios when I went there as a kid, and if you'd asked me then (or yesterday, for that matter) whether that technology would be coming to the living room anytime soon, I'd probably have dismissed the possibility. Well, the Immersit has shown otherwise: it's a home system that adds motion and vibration feedback for video games to just about any sofa. It works with PC, X-Box and Playstation and is preconfigured to respond to 120+ games, not to mention a whole bunch of movies (it works with plain old video, too). For games, the motion is based on various signals detected from the game, and can be configured at a granular level to change what motions go with what game actions. For movies, the team is using a combination of software and human adjustment to create motion codes for various movies; the Immersit detects the movie being played, and looks up the appropriate motion track. As with all such devices, it has to be tried to be properly evaluated, and I'd be pretty dubious about dropping $700+ on one without doing so — but the reviews from those who've had the chance are so far pretty positive.

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