Remember when LEGOS and K’NEX used to be the coolest toys on the block? Those days are long gone, with a new breed of toys emerging that take advantage of Apple’s iPhone. Manufacturers are ditching the clunky RC controllers of yesteryear and replacing them with an app. Your iPhone’s touchscreen serves as the new "remote," with certain devices responding to the physical movement of your phone.
Toys aren’t just for kids anymore… check out these top ten iPhone-controlled toys:
1. Parrot A.R. Drone
The Parrot A.R. Drone was the first iPhone-controlled device to hit the market. It is one of the most expensive iPhone toys, retailing for $299.99, but it offers advanced functionality for the price. The drone creates an ad hoc Wi-Fi connection to your iPhone, so you can fly the chopper far beyond your field of view. It’s much more than the RC helicopter you used growing up, as it features a wide-angle view camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, ultrasound sensor and powerful onboard computer.
As you control the A.R. Drone, a live feed of the front camera is streamed to your device. The app supports an Autopilot Mode, which simplifies the takeoff and landing process. Once in the air, Auto Pilot maintains the chopper in case you remove your fingers from the iOS device. If your Wi-Fi signal is lost or out of range, Auto Pilot will ensure your $300 gizmo lands safely. Since it’s designed for both indoor and outdoor use, its carbon fiber components are easily swappable in case repairs are needed, but the piloting app ensures your chopper doesn’t end up in your neighbor’s tree.
In addition to traditional flight, the A.R. Drone supports different augmented reality games in the App Store. Using those programs, players can “shoot” competing choppers or engage in artillery missions that challenge your skills.
2. Helo TC
RC Helicopters sure have advanced since the 1990s, that’s for sure! The Griffin Helo TC is an easy-to-use futuristic RC Helicopter that is controlled by your iPhone or iPod Touch. The Helo TC communicates with your iPhone via an infrared sensor, which plugs into your device’s headphone jack. With the downloadable Helo TC App, users can steer the chopper using a virtual joystick that’s controlled via your touchscreen. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can control the helicopter using your iPhone’s gyroscope to move the copter forward, backward and side to side.
The app offers a unique feature that allows users to record and store up to three flight plans. Create your own personal missions that circumvent breakables or buzz by the bird cage. Within the flight plans, users have the option to create goals and replay flight plans once recorded. For added fun or a challenge, players can fly up to three Helo TC choppers at once, since the Helo TC app allows users to switch between three channels. The easy-to-fly helicopter is available online for $39.99.
3. Rover App-Controlled Spy Tank
Spy on your friends, scare your neighbors and freak out your coworkers without leaving the couch with Brookstone’s Rover App-Controlled Spy Tank. As the Rover approaches your target, the device has a built-in camera and microphone that streams footage to your iOS device in real-time. You can hear – and see – everything as it is being said. The tank’s camera can also take photos during the mission as proof. Night warriors rejoice -- the Spy Tank has an infrared night vision sensor that lets you see items in the dark.
Unlike other iOS-controlled toys, the Spy Tank uses Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth. It creates a secure ad hoc connection with your iPhone and can travel up to 200 ft. unobstructed, or 100 ft. if there are walls. You control the tank using the apps on screen joystick. Alternatively, use your device like a steering wheel and control the Spy Tank with your iPhone’s accelerometer. James Bond wishes he had a Spy Tank like the Rover, which sells for $99.99 online.
Sphero is an extraordinarily intelligent baseball-shaped robot that’s controlled by your iOS device. The device features an impact resistant polycarbonate shell, as it is built to withstand the strain of everyday gameplay. The Sphero experience starts with their iOS app, which combines real and virtual elements to create a “mixed-reality” field. Sphero uses an open API and includes several free apps. The main Sphero app allows you to get to know Sphero, track your Sphero apps and engage with your social networks. Sphero apps include:
· Sphero Drive: Pretend Sphero is an RC car by using your iOS device as the joystick. You can create challenging “tracks” and race against friends.
· Sphero Golf: Pretend the Sphero is the golf ball and your phone is the club. Select a virtual “hole” and swing your phone or flick your finger to hit the ball. Take office golf to a whole new level or create your own course at home.
· SpheroCam: Turn Sphero into a wireless spy camera and take snapshots as you drive Sphero around your house or workplace.
Sphero is debatably the smartest baseball on the planet. The device uses cable-free inductive charging and lasts for an hour on a single charge. Plus, you can customize Sphero’s LEDs to match your mood. Since developers can create their own apps, Sphero’s possibilities are endless as new programs come to market. Sphero is available online for $129.99.
5. Silverlit Ferrari Enzo
The Silverlit Ferrari Enzo is one of the first iOS-controlled cars on the market. Using your iPhone as the remote, you tilt forward to accelerate, steer left or right and tilt backward to go in reverse. The iOS app offers the “real experience” by emulating the rumble of the engine that increases as you accelerate. The app is more than a joystick, as it replicates a traditional Ferrari dashboard for the ultimate driving experience. The Ferrari itself is made out of the same materials traditional RC cars and connects to your iPhone using Bluetooth, so no cables are required.
Originally a KickStarter project, iRemoco is a remote controlled helicopter for iOS devices. The chopper has a durable metal chassis and plastic landing skids, which, in conjunction with its motor protection system, protects the helicopter in the event of a crash. Unfortunately, the iRemoco lasts 4-6 minutes on a single charge, as it only has a 180 mAh battery. Players charge the chopper and controller in the included USB cradle, which connects to their computer.
Unlike more expensive models, the iRemoco uses a simple, yet effective, infrared controller that attaches to your iOS device. The iRemoco is designed for indoor use and includes spare parts in case of an unfortunate crash. Users can control up to three choppers simultaneously using the iRemoco controller, ideal for combat missions or air fights; all you need to do is switch channels on the iRemoco remote. The iRemoco is available online starting at £59.99.
Transform your iPhone or iPod Touch into a next-generation rifle with AppBlaster. The iPhone docks into the gun where the sight would normally be. Using your iPhone’s camera and the AppBlaster app, you can transform your home or office into an interactive battle ground. Using augmented reality, stop the alien invasion in your living room. The soft gun (or AppGun) has two triggers for maximum interactivity. AppBlaster uses the device’s accelerometer or gyroscope, so you can “tilt” back to reload and rotate 90, 180, and 360 degrees.
Go ATV’ing or off-roading in the comfort of your living room with AppRacer, an “ATV” like vehicle that’s controlled by your iPhone. It’s safe to use your iPhone and drive with AppRacer, which transforms your iPhone into a steering wheel. Simply attach the Infrared dongle to the iPhone’s headphone jack and begin controlling the ATV as normal. The ATV is relatively complicated compared to other iOS-controlled devices but offers fun gameplay for those up for a challenge.
Tankbot is an affordable iOS-controlled toy that’s made by the makers of MyDeskPets. Tankbot is designed for geeks at heart and uses optical navigation technology to navigate through complex obstacles or mazes. For only $25, the Tankbot navigates relatively accurately and has special sound effects. You can control the Tankbot with your iPhone or let the toy roam freely, navigating objects on your desk or other surface. The device is relatively small – no bigger than a small lime – and comes in orange, blue or green. The tank has a flip-out plastic USB dongle, so all you need to do is plug it into your computer’s powered USB port.
To control the robot using your iOS device, a 3.5mm Infrared bug plugs into your headphone jack to communicate with the device. Each Tankbot model (color) uses a separate frequency, so you could control three tanks simultaneously by switching channels within the free iOS Tankbot app. Despite the IR range only being a few feet, it’s one of the more affordable iPhone toys on the market.
10. iLaunch Thunder
Strike fear into the eyes of your office mates or roommates with the iLaunch Thunder. The iOS-controlled device shoots harmless missiles at innocent targets. The device connects to your iDevice via Bluetooth and can shoot missiles up to 25 feet, covering 1,400 sq. ft. of space. This should be more than enough room to declare war on your nearby coworkers.