- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Here are some of the latest examples of motion-themed toys integrated with a high-tech twist for the air and ground.

For the aeronautics fan, let’s start with the Dragonfly ($49.99, requires six AA batteries) from WowWee, the company known for its RoboRaptor, RoboSapien and a creepy animatronic chimpanzee head.

Its latest creature features a durable carbon-fiber-based body and four 16-inch wings along with a rechargeable lithium polymer battery and radio frequencies to fly indoors and outdoors — as long as you have plenty of clear space.

Making this big beast a real beauty are fluttering wings and a rear tail stabilizer rotor that works with a big-hands-friendly, two-channel digital remote to take flight for about 10 minutes.

While recharging, which takes about 20 minutes, the creature perches atop the controller with help from a magnetic anchor. In flight, it sounds just like an insect from a horror film, a cool extra.

It is, however, a litte temperamental to control, even when set to the beginner mode, and a bit pricey for the erratic magic.

More accessible to younger engineers, with a better payoff, is Tyco’s Sky Force R/C Squadron ($29.99, requires six AA batteries). Thirteen inches long and with a 13-inch wingspan, these pumped-up aircraft first must be assembled. A pair of bodies ranging from World War II-style fighters to biplanes come in the package and can be built quickly with plastic straps that keep the wings in place.

Aviators then put a rechargeable lithium polymer battery in the front of the fuselage and snap a pair of propellers to the wings.

Pilots get about eight minutes of flight time, depending on wind currents, and easily can swap the propeller rig (only one comes in the package) with other Sky Force models ($9.99, sold separately).

Now for on-the-ground fun, Tyco has taken the best parts of its popular remote radio-controlled N.S.E.C.T. to create the N.S.E.C.T. Swarm ($29.99 each, require five AAA batteries). Three 5-inch-long bug models sport glowing eyes and an attack feature.

For example, the Nano, which has a missile launcher embedded behind its wings, would be the perfect pet for any Transformer. Its RC controller has a softer green brain embedded in the center of it, and when either side is toggled, the insect moves around briskly and launches its projectile.

Also, Mattel adds a new level of fairness to the classic tests of speed with its Hot Wheels Racing Timer ($24.99, requires three AA batteries). Touch-sensitive finish lines combine with a programmable LED display module that incorporates pop-up finish flags, a countdown, false-start indicator and the somber tones of a race announcer and crowds cheering.

Challenges using feet, bikes, in-line skates, scooters and skateboards, etc., can be set to use 50- to 200-foot-long circular or 25- to 100-foot straight courses. As long as the competitor touches the plastic finish triggers, the display module will keep track of the speed, time and progress of each contestant and also declare the winner.

Finally, young skateboarders have a high-tech way to personalize their decks and make a few bucks in the process through the Web site BoardPusher (www.board pusher.com).

For about $60, including shipping and grip tape, but not trucks and wheels, the artist selects from various sizes of seven-ply Canadian maple and then uses a flexible online design template to create a masterpiece.

The site offers 60 fonts, a full-color palette and a couple dozen patterns. Designers also can upload their own pieces of art and easily size and position them. Copyrighted graphics cannot be used.

Through a digital heat transfer process, the owner’s deck gets a high-resolution, full-color work of art imprinted upon its undercarriage.

Better yet, artistic entrepreneurs can set up their own store ($5 a month or $50 for the year) on BoardPusher and sell their own designs.

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 ([email protected]).

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