Also, the 34 megabytes of internal memory won’t cut it, so use the SD memory card slot (decent-size cards start at about $50 for 32 gigabytes of storage).
What is it? A remote-controlled friend that requires two AA batteries
Gift group: Children 3 to 8 years old looking to adopt a monster
Santa’s scoop: Fisher-Price follows up Imaginext’s Spike the Ultra Dinosaur with a new legendary beast ready to interact with its owner. Junior uses a wireless remote shaped like a footprint to bring the 15-inch-tall fellow to life. He walks, he talks, he sleeps and snores, he throws an included ball and grunts out more than 30 phrases and noises, and even performs a somersault on command. Press his belly to hear him laugh and feed him (with included leaf) to watch him chew and elicit a burp. Parents will love the big guy thanks to an in-foot rechargeable 9.6-volt NiMH battery (saving some battery buys), but should consider confining him to carpeted rooms as his hard plastic thuds might cause headaches.
What is it? A flying helicopter
Gift group: A radio-control hobbyist ready for a high-tech adventure
Santa’s scoop: Parrot’s futuristic and massive quadricopter effortlessly flies indoors and outdoors, and its onboard computer generates a Wi-Fi network to transform an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad into its command center. Download a free app to one of Apple’s mobile touch-screen devices and it becomes the remote control for the copter while doubling as a video monitor by tapping into the unit’s two onboard live-feed cameras (front and bottom perspective). A 28-inch-square dark-gray plastic-foam hull helps protect the four-blade base assembly for beginners flying it outdoors, but the hull can be removed and swapped with a more colorful and stylish aerodynamic cover for the experts. Be aware that the unprotected blades can break during rough crash landings (parts are available for sale online). Pilots can expect more applications to be available for the AR.Drone in the near future, including a dogfight simulation (battle other drones on the same network). The only big bummer to this really slick device is it takes 90 minutes (or more) of charging to get about 15 minutes of flying time. As is, and albeit the prohibitive price point, the AR.Drone is one of the cooler tech marvels of the holiday season.
What is it? A digital video recorder for Macintosh computer systems (Intel Core 2 Duo processor or better and system software OS X 10.5.8 or better).
Gift group: Television show archivists
Santa’s scoop: About two-thirds the size of a Mac Mini, Elagato System’s Apple-friendly device acts as a link between a satellite or cable television receiver and a computer for easy watching, recording and storing of programming. After connecting the devices via the included component and USB cable, owners can set up automatic scheduling of favorite shows in minutes via a built-in programming guide (free for the first year, $19.99 access to the TV Guide software thereafter) that downloads H.264 (720p) high-definition footage to their hard drive (large storage capacity recommended). Owners also can quickly time-shift live TV as well as export shows into popular formats such as iTunes and for editing and long-term storage on applications such as iMovie HD and iDVD. The latest feature even incorporates the wireless streaming of programming on an iPhone or iPad ($4.99 app required) via a Wi-Fi or 3G network. The EyeTV HD also includes an infrared remote and cable to quickly change channels.
What is it? An unusual tracking device for man’s best friend
Gift group: Social networkers who love their dogs
Santa’s scoop: Radica’s electronic tag attaches to a dog’s collar and sends messages to a USB receiver connected to an owner’s computer that are then translated into Twitter messages. Owners can set up a separate Twitter account for their pooch or simply send the tweets to an existing account. The magic involves sensing the pet’s movement or barking and then sending one of 500 messages, such as “In typical fashion, the cat down the street is registered as an independent,” or “I’m cranky this morning so don’t test me,” that have nothing to do with what the pet is really up to. It’s an affordably priced novelty at best, but a definite new wrinkle to the social network phenomenon. Setting up the transmitter and receiver (Mac and PC compatible) is a breeze, although the dog tag might be a bit heavy and annoying for smaller breeds.