Christmas in February

Last week, toy manufacturers showed off the gadgets that’ll have you lining up outside stores come Christmas; we pick our favorites for all kids at heart

The annual Toy Industry Association’s Toy Fair is every kid’s dream: A whole conference center packed with games, robots, balls, hula hoops, slime guns, Smurfs, and just about any other instrument of fun that you can imagine. Come to think of it, it’s every adult’s dream, too.

Here are some of the hottest products from last week’s show, designed to appeal to tech-savvy fun-lovers of any age.

The Pleo Killer

Watch out for a duel of the robotisaurs. Mattel is introducing a toy dino that seems poised to take on Pleo, a long-awaited favorite of gadget-hounds. Like Pleo, D-Rex has soft, rubbery skin, a sensor on his head to detect touches, and a tail that wags when he’s happy. Unlike Pleo, however, he doesn’t cost $350, and seems aimed more at fun-loving kids than tech-loving adults.
Mattel D-Rex, $150, Available Fall 2008

Radio-Controlled Rider

Tyco, a superstar of radio-controlled vehicles, showed off the first R/C motorcycle that can pop a wheelie. Click a button on the remote, and the motorcycle’s front forks push down quickly, popping the front wheel into the air. That tilts the center of gravity toward the back, and the cycle tips onto two nearly unnoticeable wheels on its rear. Unlike a human rider doing a wheelie, the toy needs these extra wheels to balance–but they also let the toy stay in the wheelie position much longer. It zooms along nose-up until you touch the brake, which briefly stops the rear wheel from spinning and knocks the cycle forward again.
Tyco R/C Wheelie Pro Motorcycle, $90, Available Fall 2008

Microscope to Go

Zoom in on bugs, dead skin cells or other staples of childhood minutiae on the go. This handheld digital microscope magnifies objects up to 400 times, and then displays the image on its built-in LCD screen. You can even save pictures or short videos for later upload to your computer.
EyeClops BioniCam, $80, Fall 2008

Bug Sucker

This accessory goes along with the EyeClops digital microscope, but it seems like you could have fun with it all on its own. The DustBuster-like vacuum sucks up bugs and other critters–without hurting them. Unscrew the vacuum’s container and plug it into the EyeClops to get a magnified view. When you’re done with the scientific investigations, you can easily set your subjects free.
EyeClops Bug Vac, $15, Fall 2008

The New Lawn Darts

Here at the PopSci offices, we’ve more than once lamented that Lawn Darts are illegal. Now OgoSport has a safe replacement for the sharp-tipped projectiles that we’re no longer allowed to hurl into the ground. The foam darts have propeller-like wings that spin out of the side after you throw them, helping them maintain the same arc in the air as heavy metal darts–without the propensity towards injury.
OgoSport Copter Darts, $30

Robot Referee

Race your friends to this technicolored console and it will read players’ RFID-tagged bracelets to determine the winner. The battery-powered gizmo gives game instructions through its speakers, talks, cheers and announces scores. You can download different kinds of games via USB.
Swinxs, Price not set, Available soon