Three tech toys that won't break the bank

HENRY COOKE
Last updated 15:01, December 11 2013

These tech toys fit somewhere between the iTunes gift card and the Xbox One - they're actually fun but they won't break the bank.

Sphero ($108 from Expansys.co.nz and other stores)

The remote controlled toy of yore, supercharged.

The Sphero is a small yet strong ball that you can precisely control with your smartphone or tablet. The thing is waterproof and pet proof, can light up in a variety of colours, and even mix your drinks for you.

You would think it would get boring after driving it round your house a few times, even with the jumping ramps it comes with, but the huge number of apps that utilise the Sphero keep it interesting for weeks.

Especially fun are the alternative-reality games, where, with the help your phone or tablet's camera, the Sphero becomes a zombie-wrecking ball on your living room carpet. All this, and it has a cool wireless charger to boot.

Leap Motion controller ($160, exclusively from Dick Smiths)

The Leap Motion controller is not strictly a toy, but it certainly can be. Plug it into your PC or Mac and sit it on the desk in front of you, then go full Minority-report.

The Leap creates a 3D field that you can put your hands (and other stuff!) into, controlling your computer with flicks and gestures.

This can range from scrolling down a page to aiming a gun in a game to precision drawing with a pencil. Like the Sphero, the Leap has access to a huge range of third party apps, which extend the device further than the creators could possibly have anticipated. Plus, pretty!

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Wifi LED bulbs ($160 from MightyApe.co.nz)

Lightbulbs?! After a motion controller and a remote controlled ball?! Yup.

These LED bulbs (you get two) can be controlled from pretty much any WiFi connected device - both in a "hey look at me change the colours of the room!" and a more scheduled "at 8pm slightly dim the lights and make them a little blue".

This is way more fun than it sounds, since it can make the same room feel like four or five different ones in the space of a night.

LED bulbs are also vastly more efficient than regular ones, without that annoying heatup time most eco-friendly bulbs possess.

Henry Cooke believes the internet is mankind's crowning achievement. Read more from him at his rectangles blog.

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