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Holiday Gift Guide 2018 - Best in robots and interactive friends

November 23, 2018

Here are the top gift picks based on few robots or interactive friends.

Boxer

What is it? A cube-shaped robotPrice: $79.99Gift group: Youngsters, 6 and older wanting a compact pal

Santas scoop: Spin Master’s pocket-sized, artificially intelligent and cubed-shaped robotic buddy has six wheels and comes packed with infrared sensors for interactive play.

Owners have multiple ways to bond with the little blue guy who sports a pair of expressive, green LED eyes and offers a near steady stream of gibberish and sound effects with even an occasional raspberry and bout of flatulence to signal his displeasure.

First, use the included remote to drive and spin him around or use a hand to tap and poke at him for a variety of reactions.

Next, have him scan by rolling over, the included 10 activity cards to play games such as soccer (a ball comes in the package), a session of Boxer style Magic Eight Ball (shake him for answers) and Go Kart that involves drawing a black line on a large piece of paper and having the robot follow it.

Finally, download the free app and send up to 26 activities to Boxer to respond to. The app also offers way to collect points to unlock new games

An hour of USB charge leads to about a satisfying hour of playtime. Suffice it to report, this guy will keep new owners busy with his often-frenetic hijinks and noisy as well as occasionally amusing reactions.

Labo Robot Kit

What is it? A customizable and programmable role-playing adventurePrice: $59.99Gift group: A Nintendo Switch console owner, 10 years and older, pretending to be an Iron Giant

Santas scoop: The home of the Mario Bros. delivers the ultimate in hands-on, interactive possibilities with its Labo initiative that uses cardboard creations and brings them into a virtual universe.

For its Robot kit, owners get a package that includes string, grommets, grey canvas and sturdy cardboard pieces to construct a large backpack, a visor, and hand and foot straps that incorporate pulley mechanisms.

After putting on the pieces, they fire up the Switch software and, in tandem with the game system’s Joy-Con controllers embedded in the suit, become an onscreen, massive robot.

Now transformed into a cartoony robot within the virtual Toy Con world, suited builders extend arms to punch, stomp feet to walk, tilt body left or right to change direction, spread arms to fly and, get this, crouch to transform into a tank.

If they lower the visor, they see the action from a first-person perspective and can perform more complex maneuvers such as thrusting arms to fire a devastating long-range laser beam.

The goal of the game missions is destruction as the rampaging behemoth pulverizes buildings, crushes cars and, of course, can challenge fellow Toy Con robot owners in fights.

To further enhance a creation, stop by the virtual hangar and insert cardboard screws into the backpack to change the colors of the robot.

Owners can also learn new skills, upgrade attacks and visit the Garage to use some basic programming skills to design new adventures and add modifications to existing creations.

Expect a multi-hour construction time even with very handy animated directions, but the investment is well worth it.

Nintendo also offers a Labo Variety kit ($59.99) that offers the chance to build items such as a small piano and fishing rod, and the Labo Vehicle kit ($59.99) that is equally impressive. It has drivers construct steering wheels and pedals to control such vehicles as a submarine and airplane.

Parents need to remember that they will need to have a Nintendo Switch console system ($299) to bring this magic to life. And inner-child alert, expect mom and dad to appreciate the many parts of Labo as much as their offspring does.

Zoomer

What is it? A feisty robotic pooch Price: $99.99 Gift group: Preschoolers not ready to take care of a pet but ready to fall in love with one

Santas scoop: Spin Master’s robotic animal collection adds a playful puppy with green glowing eyes, loaded with personality and ready to take orders.

Owners tap its back button to bring the beast to life and use actual voice commands (English, French or Spanish) and touch sensors for the multi-jointed pal to perform more than 25 tricks including sitting and lying down.

Let the mutt just hang out on normal mode, and it is a bundle of energy, bouncing, running, prancing, barking and panting away and even lifting a rear leg to relive itself (water streaming sound effect included).

As far as touch tricks, rub Zoomer’s head and he will roll over for a belly rub, or tickle its chest and it will wiggle.

Zoomer’s silver, purple, white and grey, hard plastic body also features soft, furry ears and tail and a soft rubbery tongue that flaps away when giving kisses.

And, best of all, new owners can name the pooch, and it will respond when called upon. Parents will need to help youngsters program the robodog to understand his new moniker.

Owners get roughly 30 minutes of playtime after a 60-minute charge using the included USB cable.

PowerUp X-FPV

What is it? A high-tech and nosey paper airplanePrice: $109.95Gift group: Junior aviators tired of playing with traditional drones

Santas scoop: PowerUp Toys refines paper airplane technology to allow owners to use a smartphone to fly a 13-inch-long, Wi-Fi-connected aircraft with an 11-inch wing span and looking a bit like a red-and-black Stealth fighter.

First, fold the body of the plane made out of paper with reinforced carbon fiber and nylon (four sheets of special paper are included). That task will require some effort and needs assist from a few pieces of Scotch tape. Make sure the plane can fly before attaching the engine.

Next, attach the carbon fiber frame holding a cockpit that has a rotating camera and rechargeable battery and a pair of twin rear propellers. Then, wait for it, download the free app to control the plane using a game pad-style presentation.

The plane feature an onboard autopilot, crash detection that will kill the engines to not mess up the blades, a shock-absorbent front bumper, 300 feet of Wi-Fi range and an auto stabilizer to fly in windy conditions.

Now, stick the phone in the included Google cardboard goggles and feel like you are sitting in the cockpit, seeing what the plane sees as it buzzes around locations. Head movements even control the craft, though it will take some major practice sessions.

Additionally, insert a micro SD card (sold separately) into the cockpit area to record some of the flight action, controlled via the app, with a 640x480 pixel resolution.

Expect about 10 minutes of flight time on a fully charged battery (that takes a couple of hours to charge, yikes). I would suggest buying extra batteries for an extended session (a three-battery pack with a multi-battery charger runs $29.99).

Now, the beauty for parents comes in watching Junior test his own paper airplane (also try sturdy paper stock such as high-end printer paper to experiment) and giving him hands-on lessons in aeronautical engineering.

And, of course, the PowerUp X-FPV is recommended for large open and grassy fields during stable weather conditions.

(Baby Alive) Real As Can Be Baby What is it? A robotic toddler requiring 4 AA batteries (included) Price: $99.99 Gift group: Imaginative children wanting a new sibling

Santas scoop: Hasbro’s Baby Alive series of dolls ratchet up the “alive” part with its latest, a 16-inch-long toddler with soft body offering more than 80 combined movements, facial expressions and sounds.

Touch its left hand to wake baby up to deliver plenty of interactive moments loaded with cooing, babbling and smiles as it even reacts to the owner’s voice.

For example, tickle its tummy and it giggles. Speak to the baby and its neck moves as big bright eyes and fluttering eyelashes look toward the caretaker. Put a pacifier in its mouth and lips close around it. Gently rock the baby, and it will fall asleep.

And, most importantly, give the shrimp a bottle before it displays an unhappy face that is almost heartbreaking.

The Baby Alive comes with a blanket, onesie, hat, headband, bottle and a pacifier.

The only pain in the butt with the doll, and it is literally a pain in the butt, is turning it on. Parents will need to partially remove its onesie to get to its bottom, crack open another soft layer and access the activation switch.

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