All posts in “toys”

Amazon has tons of adorable pet products on sale today

On the 11th day of Christmas, Amazon gave to me: dog DNA kits, vacuums for those hairballs, sales on pet cameras, and a squirrel hiding in a fuzzy tree.

Amazon’s 12 Days of Deals have been going strong since December 3, with a specific theme each day to help you with holiday shopping. Today’s deals are all about the animal lover and — let’s be real — should just be everyone. 

Whether you’ve been thinking about picking up a pet camera for your aunt who’s super attached to her Frenchies or need to restock on Temptations treats to get your cat through the long car ride to your parents’ house, today’s the day to do it. Head on over to Amazon’s deal page to browse their whole selection, or read on to find our best bets for the furry friends on your gift list.

If you’re as obsessed as we are with finding out your ancestral background with DNA kits like 23 and Me, you can find out where your furry friend comes from too. If you’ve got a mutt with questionable origins or want to see whether your beautiful boy really is pure-bred Aussie, Wisdom Panel uses your pup’s DNA to find out what breeds are part of his genetic makeup. They’ll also screen for a drug sensitivity gene which can potentially help you avoid health problems down the road. Wisdom Panel usually goes for $79.99 but is on sale today for $29 off.

Dyson’s Animal Complete vacuum comes with eight attachments and powerful suction designed to pick up pet hair and a high-efficiency filter to keep allergens from escaping. A new model costs a whopping $619.88, but this certified refurbished version is just $260 today.

To some dogs, their human’s only purpose is to feed them and play fetch. Because you have a life and a job (and your arm gets sore,) you can only throw so many balls. That’s where iFetch comes in. It’s a machine that works a lot like a tennis ball launcher, but designed for pets to be able to use themselves. You can train your pup to drop mini-tennis balls into the opening and wait for it to be thrown up to 30 feet. Get 25% off the $115 gadget today only. 

If you’re looking for something that’s more toy than a gadget, you can still get an interactive experience for your pup. This toy looks just like a plush log for your dog to throw around. It doesn’t have any digital components, but still stimulates his brain by making him work to find the squeaky squirrels hidden inside. At just $10.99 today, you can get one for every dog you know, plus a backup for when they inevitably tear all those squirrels to shreds.

You may have seen our Black Friday coverage of Petcube, but this offer is even better. Today you can get $110 off the pet camera that allows you to keep an eye on your pets while you’re at work and toss them treats using an app on your phone. 

Bonus: treats for your feline friends

Dogs get most of the fun pet tech, but cats aren’t left out of the deals today. This 6-piece variety pack of Temptations treats is just $5.47 today. That should be enough to get you through every long car ride from now until summer vacation.

This invention kit is on sale and can turn almost anything into a touchpad or video game controller

Yes, that is Play-Doh.
Yes, that is Play-Doh.

Image: mobile public library

Have you ever seen the experiment that uses an orange to conduct electricity and think “man, I wish I could use fruit to control objects in my life,” because same, obviously.

The idea of using wiring to turn inanimate objects into useful items isn’t brand new, but has seemed a little too far-fetched in the past for the general public to get into. Enter Makey Makey: an invention kit for everyone that uses wires and alligator clips to turn everyday objects into computerized touch pads.

The idea behind this may seem like it’s straight out of some ridiculous science cartoon, but it’s 100% real and easy to use. Starting out as a super successful Kickstarter project, the Makey Makey aims to make the world of science and coding more accessible (and fun). 

On the circuit board are colored wires labeled with actions (space, click, and arrow movements). The wires have clips on the end that attach to the object of your choice, which then sync movements with the system they’re connected to — no software needed. Use a pencil-drawn video game controller to play Super Mario, turn your staircase into giant piano keys, or spice up your work day by using gummy bears as computer keys — the limit does not exist.

Check it out:

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If this isn’t up your alley, it would probably make the single greatest holiday gift for the brainiac kids in your life. Get the creative juices flowing and find Makey Makey here for less than $50.

Adorable AR-activated ‘Star Wars’ Stormtrooper robot is the droid you’re looking for

Want to uphold the First Order and deal with some rebel scum from your own room?

In the same week we’ve seen the new trailer for The Last Jedi, AI and humanoid robotic company UBTECH has released a new Star Wars Stormtrooper robot. It’ll come with an augmented reality app, and can take voice commands, do facial recognition and even sentry patrolling.

The First Order Stormtrooper Robot’s AR app mode is supported by a voice activated command feature so you can issue direct verbal orders to your robot, launch “attacks” and tackle those pesky rebels through the app interface.

Image: ubtech

There’s facial recognition at play here, too. Using the facial biometrics feature, you can create a database of up to three faces that your little Stormtrooper responds to with customised interactions. Best to designate your least favourite roomie as a member of the Resistance.

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Kept within a closed network, the Stormtrooper Robot won’t start taking orders from a random online Sith, and no data or personal information is saved to the robot or the companion app. 

The robot and app communicate via Wi-Fi but the company assures that the transmission is 128-bit AES encrypted. 

Image: ubtech

And anyone with pesky siblings, nosy pets or roomies, the robot has a “sentry” feature, in which you can order the little soldier to patrol a designated area and notify you of intruders. Plus, it won’t bump into your furniture, using an IR sensor to detect and avoid objects.

Image: UBTECH

You’re in charge, so make sure you let your mate know to duck when investigating Death Star docking bay 327 — low-hanging pressure doors are a bitch.

UBTECH’s Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper Robot retails for US$299.99 and is available for pre-order now on the website and select retailers.

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The real Einstein would send Professor Einstein, his robot namesake, into a black hole

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Albert Einstein — the guy who couldn’t tie his shoelace, but also developed the Theory of Relativity — was a both a genius and an oddball. His robot namesake, Professor Einstein, is mostly just an oddball.

Hanson Robotics Founder and CEO David Hanson has long been fascinated by the German-born physicist. He built a life-sized and life-like Einstein head on top of a Hubo robot more than a decade ago. In 2015, he cooked up the idea of a desktop-sized Einstein robot that could teach young people about science.

The result is Professor Einstein, a $299, 15-inch, rubber-faced, mustachioed Einstein look-alike who will make eye contact, tell terrible jokes, and, in concert with a rich Stein-O-Matic app, teach you about a wide array of scientific disciplines.

With his yellow sweater, brown tie, corduroy pants, bushy mustache, and wispy white hair, Professor Einstein does make a good first impression. The bot is unmistakably based on the legendary scientist who died in 1955.

Set-up is relatively straight-forward. Professor Einstein uses dual-proprietary battery packs — one goes in each foot — and there’s a small power switch on his lower back. The Stein-O-Matic app (iOS or Android) leads you through the rest. You create a profile and tell Professor Einstein your name, which he will occasionally use when speaking to you. There’s an Asteroids-like game, “Mag-Neato,” included, which I quite enjoyed playing. One general criticism I have of the app, though, is that it frequently uses almost unreadably small text. I’m sure it looks better on an iPad.

Some of what Hanson accomplished with Professor Einstein is impressive. Einstein raises his eyebrows, blinks, and appears to watch you with his green eyes. His mouth moves in sync with his voice. He can even stick out his plastic tongue, recreating the famous Albert Einstein portrait. The robot can walk, haltingly, and raise his right arm, which automatically extends its index finger.

He points!

He points!

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

Hanson Robotics got the Einstein details right.

Hanson Robotics got the Einstein details right.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

However, a lot of Professor Einstein is disappointing. The voice is vaguely elderly and Germanic, but also sort of a buzz-filled mess. At one point the robot launched into a lengthy explanation of the universe. It was interesting, but also painful to listen to. 

Professor Einstein speaks at a raised volume, which means it’s just below a shout. Even worse, there’s no volume control on the robot or in the app.

There are a whole bunch of science topics inside the Stein-O-Matic app. Typically you read the card and then answer quiz questions.

There are a whole bunch of science topics inside the Stein-O-Matic app. Typically you read the card and then answer quiz questions.

Image: Hanson Robotics

I am learning.

I am learning.

Image: Hanson robotics

As a robot, Einstein is also disappointing, with fewer sensors than your average iPhone. Professor Einstein has no accelerometer or gyroscope, so there’s no reaction when you pick him up or knock him down. There is a camera “hidden” in his tie — it, along with two microphones hidden behind the ears and under all that white hair, is used to track you so Einstein appears to be making eye-contact. Sometimes, Einstein seems to be looking at you, but most of the time, he’s just randomly looking around the room. 

On the bright side, Professor Einstein can be pretty smart, as long as he’s connected to the Internet (he lost his connection to our office network every few minutes). You set that up through the app and then, each time you power Professor Einstein up, you have to wait for him to establish a connection. At least he tells you he’s doing so:

“Just one moment while I try to go online.

I will just need a moment to complete the connection.

Let’s get to work.”

You have to listen to this every single time you turn on the robot.

If he’s connected, Professor Einstein can answer a wide variety of questions. Most responses sound like they come straight from Wikipedia, but many are actually from Hanson Robotic’s Cloud AI.

Even though the robot is recording your voice (after “Hey Professor”) and sending it to the cloud, the system uses end-to-end encryption to protect your privacy.

There are dozens of personal questions you can ask Professor Einstein about himself, but you won’t get the answers quickly.

Professor Einstein is most effective when he’s working in concert with the app, which is full of science courses (or cards), quizzes, and games. I did feel like I was learning about science and appreciated that every time I answered questions correctly, Professor Einstein cheered my results. He also commented when I got something wrong.

Sometimes Professor Einstein explains things at length, peppering his commentary with terrible jokes:

“It’s called the Goldilocks Zone because scientists are terrible at naming things, Just ask Uranus.”

Good outfit, Einstein.

Good outfit, Einstein.

Image: LANCE ULANOFF/MASHABLE

The Professor also has a collection of entertaining pre-built animation routines, which you can access by saying the right phrase (no need for a “Hey Professor”). They include sticking out his tongue, dancing, and giving you a big, creepy smile. I had trouble making many of these work, partly because the included Quick Start manual mangled some of the commands. For example, in the manual it says, “Stick out your tongue,” but the robot only responds to “Stick your tongue out.”

Interaction with Professor Einstein can be painfully slow, mostly because the bot is sending queries out to the cloud.

Here’s how one interaction went: 

I said, “Hey Professor,”

And then I waited.

A few seconds later he replied, “Yes, that’s me.”

Then I asked him to tell me a joke.

He replied, “One moment.”

And I waited.

Then he replied, “Here’s a good one.”

I’d tell you the joke, but the the speech is so poor that I didn’t even catch all of it.

Professor Einstein gets points for an on-point Albert Einstein outfit, a life-like, expressive face, and an excellent learning app, but I would not pay $299 for a robot that responds only 70% of the time and talks (too loudly) like it swallowed a fistful of bees.

Professor Einstein

The Good

Animated, life-like face Rich, deep and fun science education app

The Bad

Slow Inconsistent operation No volume control Can’t maintain network connection

The Bottom Line

Relatively speaking, this is not one of the better toy robots we’ve tested.

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