Posts Tagged ‘video’

The Magical FlutterBye Fairy Reviewed

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

At one of the local shopping malls last week, I saw some incredible – and very large – fairy displays the mall had commissioned for the holidays. I imagined this was because the holidays are a magical time and fairies are pretty magical in their own right. Last night, I spent some time with a fairy of my own, FlutterBye.

FlutterBye Fairy

What Is FlutterBye?

My first thought when I saw this toy was, “Another remote control toy… Cool!” But There’s no remote control here, at least not how you’re thinking. The fairy flies in the same way a helicopter or quad-copter might, with a kind of propeller except that she is the propeller. For the most part, she will fly on her own and without guidance she will eventually crash down. The control comes from your use of sensors on underneath FlutterBye that can tell how close your hand is. She will attempt to hover inches above your hand, but will wander off horizontally. Check out the review video below for a demo and a better idea of how she works.

The Magic

When I get toys in the mail to review, I joke with friends about how horrible it is that I have to go play with all these toys. In this case, I wasn’t dreading it, but I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d enjoy FlutterBye. After some initial doubt (see below), I found myself having a lot of fun with it and forgetting I was reviewing it.

I also found the battery life to be pretty amazing. With a remote controlled helicopter, I often get about six to eight minutes of flying time on a charge. Here, I was well into about 15 minutes with no sign of slowing. And while I’m comparing her to a helicopter, she turned out to be tougher as well. Crashing her a lot of times before getting the flying down, I left no sign of damage anywhere on her. She’s one tough fairy.

Some Cautions

Something that wasn’t immediately apparent to me was the risk of long hair and propellers. Though I hadn’t thought of it, it’s worth mentioning although the use of a pony tail and and not headbanging to FlutterBye are probably sufficient precautions. Having that fast propeller hit your hand is another story, though, so you’ll want to heed the advice in the user guide and grab FlutterBye close to the ankles when recovering her mid-flight.

Control eluded me at first, but it wasn’t like with R/C aerials that require practice. This was more about learning. Once I learned how to control her height and became more comfortable with when to grab her feet to regain control, all was well.

Final Thoughts

Retailing for about $28, she’s priced well to fit under nearly any tree this Christmas and well worth the cost, which is probably why it made the Amazon Hot Holiday List, among other things. While the box indicates FlutterBye is a toy suited for children aged five and up, I would think this would be a great toy for girls seven to twelve or so.

Performing Stunts With The Helix X4 Stunt Quadcopter

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

RC Helicopters are cool, but I’ve always thought quad-copters are even cooler. The use of four rotors makes them fast, stable, and easier to manipulate mid-air. Still, I never got around to buying one. Then the Air Hogs Helix X4 Stunt showed up in the mail. As one of Wal-Mart’s Top 20 Chosen by Kids, I was excited to dive right in.

Air Hogs Elite Helix X4

Usability and Control

With 4 ducted fans and gyro stabilization, the Helix X4 was really easy to get (and keep) in the air, even for a first-timer like myself. I’ve had a few RC helicopters and this was a lot more fun. While a helicopter requires constant attention in the air, the X4 was a little more self-sustaining and as a result, I crashed it far fewer times. The controls are easy to use and understand though not immediately intuitive. By this, I mean that you should always read the manual first. The thing that caught me off guard was how it isn’t ready to fly until it’s really ready. The X4 indicates via its lights when it is stable for launch and then you can get to the fun. The benefit is that it will always have a clean lift-off.

Features and Stunts

Other than the launch procedure, the lights on the front of this quad-copter will also flash orange if the battery is getting low and red when it’s time to land and re-charge. This is a step up from other quad-copters that just drop out of the sky when the batteries are done. Below is a list of other features of the Helix X4:

  • 2.4GHz radio control
  • Gyro stabilization
  • 4-ducted fans
  • 4-channel control
  • Incredibly crash-resistant materials
  • Superior durability
  • Charges from remote or using USB cable (included)
  • Did I mention stunts

Durability and Design

Let’s talk about the durability for a second. I’m super extra nervous-guy careful about my electronics, especially the ones that fly. The problem is, once it’s in the air, there’s not a lot you can do when it crashes. I’ve crashed my share of flying gadgets and much of my X4 flight time was in a cramped office, so I crashed this one even more. The difference this time is that the fans are protected by ducts as an extension of the quad-copter’s body.

The design, to me, is secondary, but also wasn’t lacking. There’s really not a lot of room to make one quad-copter look substantially better than others in it’s class, but the right colors and a little aerodynamics make all the difference.

The controller had a good weight to it and felt right in my hands. It also had features I liked such as the smooth stick control and right-hand placement of the stunt button and control as well as the handle, which was a nice touch. Unfortunately, the few fake controls that are built onto the controller but don’t do anything seemed out of place and the batteries didn’t seem to stay put very securely – although neither impeded performance in any way.

Helix X4 Stunt Video

With anything as fun as this, I try to include a little video with the review, so here you go!

Conclusions

With the suggested price of $79.99, the Helix X4 Stunt is might be a little more spendy than some of the lesser quad-copters, but it has the features to back it up. If you have limited skills and want to wow friends with some stunts, wrap your hands around one of these and you’ll be set.

The Internet of Quirky Things

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

About six months ago the community product development site, Quirky, announced a partnership with GE to make every day products smarter. While I’m still waiting for the milk pitcher that lets me know when my milk has gone bad, a few smarter products just hit store shelves this week, so I thought I’d provide a closer look.


Porkfolio $69.99
When I was a kid, having a piggy bank was a way to learn about saving money and reap the rewards later by buying whatever I wanted. Sadly, I often became all too curious about how much I had saved and would crack into that thing early. Fast forward a few decades. My piggy bank is now a real bank and I’m much more responsible with it, but the old piggy bank has changed a lot more than me. Today’s piggy bank is app enabled and built in concert with the long-popular electronic appliance giant, GE. Today’s piggy bank is Porkfolio and it’s app-enabled, smart, and looks like a lot of fun to use. Porkfolio seems a bit expensive at almost 70 bucks, but it has the features to back up the price. The head locks to keep brothers and sisters out, and if they try to access your money, the built-in accelerometer tattles on them by way of your smart phone. Besides motion alerts, the app provides information about your savings to keep you dropping coins in. Not too bad for a little piggy.


Pivot Power Genius $79.99
I have a soft spot for home automation and I’ve loved the original Pivot Power since I first saw it (I own three), so I was pretty excited when I first heard about this product as well. This newer version of the Pivot Power features it’s trademark pivoting of the outlet positions to allow for maximum use with all types of devices, but includes the ability to control two of the plugs remotely with a smartphone app. Better still, you can pair the Pivot Power Genius with the next device on the list, Spotter.


Spotter $49.99
Spotter is like its own little internet of things. It’s basically a little puck that has sensors for temperature and humidity, sound, movement and light and can perform actions triggered by a change in any of the above. One example that I hinted at before is the ability to turn on or off one of the Pivot Power Genius plugs. You could, for example, set an action for when your alarm clock sounds in your bedroom to turn on the coffee maker so your coffee begins brewing. On its own, Spotter can still trigger alerts via the phone’s push notifications or send an email. It also works both ways, meaning that an event can be triggered when a light comes on or turns off or when movement starts (as in intruder detection) or stops (as in your clothes drying cycle has completed). What’s missing is the ability to adjust the sensor thresholds to customize Spotter more to your individual needs, but with any luck, an app update will offer that down the road.


Egg Minder $69.99
Back into the kitchen, Quirky rolled out Egg Minder. Just as the name implies, it keeps track of your eggs. More specifically, it keeps track of which egg is the oldest and how many you have left. You’re about to make breakfast and you know a few of the eggs in the fridge are a bit older than the rest, so you just use the egg with the light next to it lit up. As you remove it, the next oldest is indicated with its light lit up. If you’re at the store and unsure of your egg count at home, a quick check of the app will show you exactly how many are left. Its true usability will be left to the individual user, but the concept was delivered pretty perfectly and it’s definitely a new way to manage your egg inventory.


Nimbus $129.99
One of the coolest looking devices this week from Quirky is Nimbus. It’s also the most expensive at about $130. Nimbus is a four part dash board for everything connected in your life. Through the app, you can configure what data you want on each display and the selection includes social media accounts, email, weather, FitBit data and traffic among other things. It looks great and works with a lot of data sources, but this was one I wished was cheaper as $129.99 seems high to me.


Wink – The app FREE
Mentioned a few times above was a smartphone application that works with all of these devices and helps them work with each other in some cases. Wink can be thought of as the Quirky smart device manager and is available as a free application on your Android or IOS device. On my iPhone, the app is great, although I don’t yet have any hardware to play with. Hands down, the coolest part about Wink is how it pairs with your apps the first time. You start with a dead simple account creation and then tell it your wireless network name and password. After that you hold it up to a light sensor on a compatible device and it emits a series of very fast flashes like Morse Code at 10x speed. The device then pairs with the app and is ready to manage. This method has to be among the easiest I’ve seen and will make these devices much friendlier to get up and running. I was impressed.

To get a glimpse of a couple of the devices working together with the Wink app, check out the review video below and look for any of them at Home Depot and Best Buy if you can’t wait for shipping.

Disclosure: I’ve been helping influence product creation on Quirky since 2009, and I get a tiny little piece of each sale they make for these products. It’s not enough for me talk up a bad product, but you should know my bias all the same.