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Brookstone features total app-control toys

Brookstone, the nationwide specialty retailer that prides itself on offering unusual consumer products not widely available from other retailers, has staked out an interesting product space this year -- Total App-Control!

It sounds ominous but the term refers to radio-controlled toys for children and adults that are controlled using an Apple iOS- or Android-powered device. On the Apple side, this includes the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. For the Android world, choices include smart phones and tablets from HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Toshiba, and others.

Most of the devices shown today on the Fox 8 Morning News use free apps downloaded either from the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace. In the majority of cases, conventional radio control is replaced by a Wi-Fi connection, whose range is somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 - 150 feet.

Using your iPhone or iPad as a control console is a clever idea, provided you don't mind tying up your smart phone or tablet. I tend to think this would eventually become inconvenient, but it all depends on whether the toy owner has his or her own touchscreen device.

Furthermore, while all of these products are well-engineered and entertaining to some degree, most perform like version 1.0 releases, meaning they could all stand some improvement. All of the glitches were minor, and since the apps are easily updated, I assume they will disappear eventually. For now, let's concentrate on the fun.

The Rover Spy Tank is App-Controlled by an iPod touch, iPhone device, or iPad tablet.
App-Controlled race car generates its own Wi-Fi connection to avoid remote frequency interference.
Tankbots have special sensors that detect obstacles to navigate their way out of a maze.

I'll start with the device that elicited the most oo's and ah's during our tests. The Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter is a remarkable piece of technology, which isn't surprising, considering its $299.99 price tag (Brookstone currently has it on sale for $279.99.)

The Parrot AR.Drone uses the accelerometer in your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad  (as well as Android-based phones and tablets) to create a virtual cockpit. On-bo

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