- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Here’s a look at some of the latest high-tech toys on this planet.

Test Tube Aliens from 4Kidz Inc. (stand-alone product, $14.99).

A group of multimedia-dependent “extraterrestrials” that already have invaded the United Kingdom and Australia land on American shores in search of humans to help them survive.

The toy alien samples, created in 2005 by inventor Mike Simpson and Matty Bickerton, former senior scientist at Philips Research Labs, were handed over to 4Kidz’ President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Lewis. They are sold to suitable owners at various stores.

These sluglike creatures, which belong to a dying race from the planet Naratuko, find themselves stuck in test tubes as they wait to find a hospitable planet to colonize. The creatures also happen to be among the more clever high-tech toys available.

Youngsters brave enough to own and care for one of the aliens will find it suspended in a hardened white cocoon and stuck in a 6-inch-tall, permanently sealed test tube.

The first step is to flood the chamber with water (a cap can be removed temporarily to open a quarter-inch hole) and watch the alien free itself and fizz its way to life. Owners should rinse long and often during the birthing process to clear away not only the embryonic sac but any cloudiness in the water.

Once revealed, the roughly 3-inch tall, multiappendaged entity looks like something one would encounter on Ceti Alpha V being embraced by Captain Kirk’s nemesis, Khan.

The aliens have bulging eyes, a pair of antennae that undulate to communicate their needs, and bodies partly covered by an exoskeleton with flashing lights.

Things get a bit more labor-intensive now that the creature is alive; junior chemists in the family must mix packets of dehydrated “sloog” with water to feed the creature. This growth powder, indigenous to the alien’s home world, must be poured into the tube for a three-day period, each time filling it up until it covers the creature’s head.

Owners also must watch its flashing light display. An orange light means it is hungry, a green light means it is drowning, and a slowly flashing red light means it is content. The owner also must keep the alien in light for 12 hours and darkness for 12 to keep it happy.

Mr. Lewis says the worst way to abuse the alien and shorten its life would be to drown it (they breathe through their antennae) and leave it in the dark, causing its energy force to drain away in about six weeks.

The alien also grows over a 14-day period (equal to 14 years in Naratuko time) to fit tightly in the tube.

Even more amazing, the owner can take his new pal to cyberspace to have it interact with an on-screen display and monitor progress.

The Test Tube Alien’s Web site (www.testtubealiens.com) requires a visitor to register his alien using a number found on its holographic ID card, which comes with the package. Once an alien is registered, computer users can print a certificate of ownership and access the Research Lab to perform tests.

Within a dimly lit room, the owner can find out its age and health and put it into a panic mode (to test heart rate) or place it in coma mode.

The exercise has the researcher hold the tube up against a flashing portal for 30 seconds as the alien receives a set of colored-light signals, which must be entered manually into the LED sequence area to get results.

Owners can choose from three good aliens — Kurion, Yagoni and Tatsuni — or a trio of bad fellows named Dodec, Takon and Shako to experience, as Spock might emote, a “fascinating,” hands-on, virtual-toy adventure.

The magic behind the creatures uses a computer chip in the head, an internal battery and advanced sensor technology that includes reactions to light and liquid.

The surprisingly complex creature is also partially made of polyacrylamide (an synthetic agent used in farms to condition soil and prevent erosion) that allows it to grow around eight times its original size with proper feeding. The sloog mixture is not just for show but has an acidic chemical added to keep the alien’s growth contained.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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