Category: Novelty

Just in time for Easter: Chocolate USB flash drives

Today we realized – somewhat belatedly – that we were missing several key ingredients required for making Easter eggs. Specifically: eggs and dye. And since most of the shops are closed, our local Shoppers Drug Mart became the beneficiary of our poor planning.

We found both eggs and a dyeing kit so catastrophe was averted. But as luck would have it, I also stumbled upon another Easter-themed item. There, amidst the $10 DVDs and the wall of i-device accessories, hung a rack of Maxell-branded “AromaDrives.

Turns out innovation in the USB flash-drive space isn’t dead yet. Thanks to Maxell, you can now count smell, er, aroma amongst the many questionable attributes that manufacturers have added to these ubiquitous gadgets in the hopes of driving sales.

When I first realized what I was looking at, I hoped that the chocolate scent would be generated by plugging the drive into a USB socket. You know – like one of those Glade Plug-in capsules – so as it gradually heated up from the tiny 5 volt current, it would release increasing amounts of chocolatey goodness into the atmosphere. Sadly, it seems Maxell has simply impregnated the shell of the drive with the artificial chocolate scent and any increase in aroma you get after plugging it in is purely unintentional.

If this sounds like something that belongs in your Easter basket this weekend, hop on over to your nearest Shoppers and be prepared to shell out $24.99 + taxes for a 4GB model.

Tell them the Easter Bunny sent you.

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Parrot AR.Drone hits Canada for the holidays

The Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter

The Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter

I confess, at the age of 41 I am still completely drawn in by cool toys, even if they are targeted to a much younger audience.

It’s not that I didn’t get some great toys as a kid – I did. But my dreams always seemed to exceed reality and most of the toys I had were less exciting than I wanted them to be.

One example from my youth is the VertiBird, a remote-controlled helicopter that was tethered to a central base station by way of a rigid control arm. The tiny chopper could rise and fall through the air and circle forward or backward around the base station. It even came with a tail hook that could be used to lift the plastic “getaway” car and obstacle that came in the package. It was hours of fun, but I have always wished it could fly around the room with complete freedom.

Mattel's VertiBird. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Click for larger image.

Mattel's VertiBird. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Click for larger image.

Until a few years ago that wish was nothing more than that – a wish. Then suddenly, onto the toy scene burst a wave of remote helis that were the same size and shape as the Whirlybird but this time they really could go anywhere and stay aloft for up to 5 minutes assuming you could keep them from crashing – not an easy thing to do. But they were super fun, and unbelievably cheap at between $25 – $50. The one I bought for myself my son two seasons ago is still limping along having long since exceeded all my expectations for amusement.

But naturally a remote heli enthusiast like me (and now my son) wants even more. And until I saw a YouTube demo of Parrot’s AR.Drone Quadricopter, I had no idea what “more” could mean.

The AR.Drone is a remote controlled chopper like no other. It is controlled by Wi-Fi via an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad (NOT included) and soon other platforms like Android devices. It can be flown indoors and outdoors my adding or removing special “hulls” that surround the 4 propellers and protect them from impacts. It has two on-board cameras – one facing front, the other facing down. If this isn’t already sounding like the most awesome toy ever you must be from the future.

Screen capture from the AR.Pursuit app. Image courtesy of iTunes. Click for larger image.

Screen capture from the AR.Pursuit app. Image courtesy of iTunes. Click for larger image.

The app that controls the AR.Drone is called AR.Freeflight which is free on Apple’s App Store.  The app gives you full control over the choppers movement and camera views. But wait, it gets better. Parrot has released their AR.Drone SDK, which allows any developer to create additional apps that layer functionality on top of AR.Freeflight’s basic controls. One example of this is the AR.Pursuit app which uses an augmented reality system to superimpose missile and gun-based dogfighting over the front camera’s feed. I’m giddy just describing it.

The good news is that Canadians can now get their hands on the UK invention from big box retailer Best Buy. The bad news – this is not a flyweight purchase. At $349 the AR.Drone won’t be making its way under tons of trees this year – especially if an i-device isn’t already in the hands of the prospective new pilot. But for those who are willing to invest the money, bragging rights – and some awesome flying experiences can be… had… with… a… click.