- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2016

Give the gift of gadget this Father’s Day to dads who love toys. Here are just a few ideas to make the high-tech family man giggle.

Myo (Thalmic Labs, $199.99) and BB-8 (Sphero, $149.99) — For the patriarch yearning of becoming a Jedi and wanting to feeling like he is just a small part of a galaxy far, far away arrives a slick gadget combination featuring one of the new heroes of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

First, the gesture-control Myo band is made up of rectangular pads and metallic connectors that an owner wears on his upper arm. It reads the electrical activity of muscles and motion of the appendage to allow the wireless, gesture control of devices and computers.

Next, unpack the orange-and-white, spherical hero BB-8 that looks ripped from the movie and rocks a miniature 4.5 inches tall.

The bot features gyroscopic propulsion, uses app- and voice-enabled guidance, offers an adaptive personality, has a 60-minute battery life (a display base acts as its recharger), whirrs around the room and glows different colors. More about bringing his personality to life via a smartphone shortly.

After a few free app downloads and Bluetooth connectivity, owners will now get the Myo band to communicate with the robot. Make a fist to calibrate the droid and spread fingers to start making him move. Slow and methodical, Jedi-like gestures will drive him around hardwood floors and tabletops. That’s a pretty slick trick, tech-heads.


SEE ALSO: Father’s Day Gift Guide: Outdoor gadget ideas for dad


However, it’s worth noting the Sphero app used to control BB-8, when not using the Myo, is also a dynamic way to interact with the Astromech droid. BB-8 sound effects and the “Star War” main theme blast though your phone, and owners can use the app interface to easily drive the droid, record and view holographic messages, or set him to patrol a perimeter.

I found the holographic effect the coolest. Pick from a set of characters in the app and point the phone at BB-8 and you’ll see on the screen the real droid projecting a 3D image of, for example, Captain Phasma ordering an attack. Owners can even create their own holograms using the smartphone’s video camera.

I’m betting a best-case use for BB-8 and Myo might be for Dad to pull it out while losing focus during a late-night meeting at the office. Imagine colleagues’ eyes light up with this high-tech magic that should dazzle them back into focus.

Also, the Myo band is not just a one-trick pony and has over 100 application possibilities. With practice and apps, it can be used to flip through PowerPoint presentation, fly certain drones, manipulate music software, pick a Netflix movie and even work with popular video games such “Fruit Ninja.”

I’ll admit it will take effort to set up and take full advantage of the band device, but it’s certainly a fun way to manipulate technology.

Gravity Pursuit (Swann, $299.99, requires 4 AA batteries) — This remote-controlled quadcopter offers Pop a great entry point into the world of drones, delivering a bit of video surveillance and high-flying aerial action.

It measures 2 feet in diameter and looks like a device that Captain America might use on patrol, boasting a red, white and blue color scheme, flashing red and green lights underneath it, and hard plastic shell and propellers.

The large white remote-controller has two joysticks, trim, speed boost and camera-control buttons and a small LCD screen to monitor signal strength, throttle and battery life.

Expect about a 30-minute set-up time to screw in the propeller protectors and landing legs while a two-hour charge is required on the Lithium Polymer battery to get roughly 15 minutes of flight time.

The key feature on the copter, of course, is a detachable HD video camera (quickly mounted to the bottom of the unit), with a 4GB MicroSD card installed on the camera to capture still shots or record about 30 minutes of color (1080p resolution) action.

The downside is you cannot control the camera or see what is being recorded until downloading the footage, with also no real-time smartphone app associated with the copter.

Also, wind is the enemy of the “Gravity Pursuit,” so tell Dad to pick a relatively calm day before taking flight. Now, the package does include extra blades for any serious crashes, though during tests, the copter took some major beatings and still worked fine.

Additionally, Swann promises the copter can actually perform stunts, such as a 360-degree flip, but I would stick to basic maneuvers until fully understanding the sometimes-touchy controls.

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