Five high-tech toys for Santa's sack

Cozmo is one of several AI toys that children will want this year.
Cozmo is one of several AI toys that children will want this year. Photo credit: Supplied.

Christmas is looming, and the shops are bulging with high tech gifts and gadgets, hoping to find their way into Santa's sack.

With hefty price tags on most children's tech toys, it's important to get it right. Here are five best-sellers that I've been lucky enough to test out this year. 

  • Anki Cozmo

Artificial intelligence toys are all the rage this year and I enjoyed playing with this robot just as much as my pint-sized testers did.

Cozmo scans faces, remembers names, plays games and explores its surroundings. It can even help kids learn how to programme. 

Cozmo’s creator - robotics company Anki - says its success lies in its personality. It continues to evolve the more you hang out with it.

My favourite part? It throws strops, if you ignore it.

Cozmo comes with three electronic cubes, which it plays with. For example, if you're ignoring it, it'll just get busy, moving them about or if you want to play too, you can challenge it to games.

There's a memory game and another where you have to pull cubes away, before it grabs them. The robot is quick and often wins. 

It'll keep a child amused for hours.

Price:  From $359 from electrical retailers.

Pros: Great personality, educational. 

Cons: Expensive and needs connecting to a smartphone to work.

  • Luvabella

This doll is likely to appear on many a small child’s wish list this year.  

Granted, she looks a little bit like the horror movie character Chucky, but she's bursting with character and, like the AI robot, she learns over time, the more your child interacts with her.

Luvabella is a baby doll that talks, responds to tickles and plays peek-a-boo.
Luvabella is a baby doll that talks, responds to tickles and plays peek-a-boo. Photo credit: Supplied.

She (yes, I know she's actually an 'it', but she's really quite lifelike) knows more than 100 words and can respond to various accessories, like a milk bottle or spoon.

Hold her feet, and she'll say "mama" and babble. Tickle her and she'll giggle.

She even plays peek-a-boo.

The whole experience will likely give your child sweet dreams and you nightmares. Of course, my mother has bought my daughter one for Christmas, so I’m also delighted to report it has an off-switch.

Price: From $190 

Pros:  A little child loves talking to dolls. This one will have them enthralled.

Cons: Expensive, slightly heavy and a bit noisy, when she moves.

  • JBL Junior 300BT Kids Headphones

If another rendition of Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ or Moana’s ‘How Far I’ll Go’ causes you to lose your sanity, and venture as far away from your children as you can possibly go, the JBL JR300BT headphones could be a good investment this Christmas.  

These headphones have a built-in safety feature to protect your child's ears.
These headphones have a built-in safety feature to protect your child's ears. Photo credit: Supplied.

These headphones have been designed for 3-10 year olds, with a safety feature that reduces the volume to less than 85 decibels.

They’re also colourful, customisable with little stickers, relatively rugged, and come in both wired and wireless versions.

Price: From $79

Pros: Cute, practical and affordable, with a great built-in safety feature.

Cons: Your child will be so quiet, it will be easy to forget what they're doing.

  • HP Sprocket Photo Printer

This could be a great gift for those difficult teenagers - a little pocket printer that can reproduce those selfies and social media snaps instantly.

The HP Sprocket printer lets you capture those memories on paper in an instant.
The HP Sprocket printer lets you capture those memories on paper in an instant. Photo credit: Suuplied.

It’s about the size of a compact camera and has a Micro UBS socket on the back for connecting the cable to recharge the batteries.

The 5 x 7.6cm photos are produced using Zink technology, which was originally developed by Polaroid.  

The paper used for the photos is coated with layers of transparent dye in manufacture, which gives a full-colour instant image. 

Price: from $199

Pros:  The effort normally required to print photos usually means we leave them on our phones. This make it so easy.

Cons: It's hard enough to get those teens to stop snapping photos as it is.

  • Anki Overdrive

This is billed as the world's most intelligent battle-racing system. Each car is a self-aware robot, driven by artificial intelligence.  

Remember Scalextric (slot car racing set) as a kid? This is 100 times better.

Working out how to start a race game is simple for smartphone savvy kids. Yes, like many high tech toys these days, you need a smartphone to play.

Cars have clever scanning functions to explore and learn each new track layout. Amazingly, if a car does skid off or get bumped off by an opponent, if it's within 400mm of the track, it somehow manages to find its way back on.

The better you play, the better the car becomes.

This is definitely a game for all the family to enjoy and perfect for those rainy Christmas days we often seem to get. My dad enjoyed this as much as the grandchildren.

Forget slot-car racing, this is the world's most intelligent battle racing system.
Forget slot-car racing, this is the world's most intelligent battle racing system. Photo credit: Supplied.

Once track creation and basic controls have been mastered, one can start to explore clever new features, such as disruptor beams that can slow or disable an opponent. 

For more challenging races, you can buy extra bits of track.

Price: $309

Pros: Fun for all the family and perfect for rainy days.

Cons: These cars are so smart, you could feel like a backseat driver.

Emma Brannam is a Newshub tech reviewer and was supplied with these tech toys to test for this article.

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