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Geeky Toys That Will Make You a Christmas Hero

See related story: What to Give? What to Get? Our Idea of the Perfect Wired Holiday

The uncanny valley has never been narrower; since so few of us know what these cubs look like up close, WowWee has designed replacements that look and behave as we expect them to. They’re so realistic they will also freak the hell out of your house cat.

The chair magnifies your own body movements, so when you tilt the joystick in any direction, the chair actually pitches (18 degrees in either direction) or rolls (to a maximum of 50 degrees) or (get the barf bag) both. The only thing the chair can’t simulate is changing G-forces, which doesn’t seem to bother most people who have tried it. The tubular aluminum construction measures 3 feet by 6 feet, weighs next to nothing and can be stored upright when you don’t feel like doing aerobatics in your living room.

The game unit houses a three-axis accelerometer that measures how active the child is over the course of the day – more movement in real life (like running, playing basketball, etc.) equals more juice in the virtual world. A great idea, but a lot depends on whether kids will take to the handheld’s retro-ish monochrome LCD display screen. You, on the other hand, you can look at it as a hackable USB-equipped accelerometer in a snazzy case.

An LED spotlight on the forehead throws an infrared beam approximately 50 feet, illuminating up the darkness with invisible rays that the vision sensor can detect. The spotlight also makes you stand out like a lighthouse to anyone else with a similar night-vision setup, so forget about midnight paintball ambushes if your opponent is similarly equipped.

The manual contains schematics and wiring diagrams for 59 different circuits, and the concepts behind each component are clearly given so it shouldn’t be too difficult for a smart kid to grasp of the world of integrated circuits – and then to start working on circuits of their own.

RFID sensors in its mouth allow it to “eat” RFID-equipped leaves (included). Children can “ride” Kota by sitting on its back and pretending, but for all its friendly responsiveness, Kota is a bit of a letdown as long as it just stands there. Your mission, should you chose to hack this toy, is to set it free.

Attach the RFID tags to things around your home or office, install the software and you’re good to go. You can use your own programming skills to make your computer do various things when various RFID tags are presented to your reader, or use Tikitag’s application website to link your RFID tags to just about anything on the web.

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