Thursday Toyblogging

4 comments February 8th, 2007at 07:06pm Posted by Eli


If only I were 25 years younger…

LEONARDO DA VINCI’S 15th-century vision of mechanical flight apparently never included fixed wings assisted by propellers or jet engines. His chief inspiration was birds, reflected in drawings of a flying machine fashioned to stay aloft by flapping its wings.

More than 500 years later, WowWee, a robotics and entertainment products company, shares that vision. Next month, it plans to release a mass-produced, functional ornithopter, a device that flies in birdlike fashion — in this case, a radio-controlled toy that mechanically flaps its Mylar wings.

The inspiration — besides Leonardo’s work — is an insect, said Sean Frawley, the 22-year-old inventor of the toy, the FlyTech Dragonfly.


During demonstration flights of the Dragonfly last month at the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual technology showcase in Las Vegas, the fluttering, footlong bug was an enormous hit. Throngs of onlookers clamored for a chance to buy the $50 toy on the spot. At the time, none were for sale.

The robotic Dragonfly will take flight again at the American International Toy Fair, the largest toy trade show in the Western Hemisphere, which begins Sunday in New York. But it will hardly be alone there in its use of technologies that are giving a new generation of toys extraordinary capabilities to fly, float, walk and roll — almost always inexpensively — in ways unimaginable just a few years ago.


Executives at Mattel, which owns Tyco, are placing their bets on a new kind of radio-controlled three-wheeled vehicle it is calling the Tyco R/C Terrainiac. Scheduled to go on sale in the summer for about $80, the Terrainiac is a futuristic-looking vehicle powered by a single rear wheel that is a complex treaded ball, referred to by its makers as a “sphere drive.”

The body of the vehicle has been engineered with a controllable joint that allows the Terrainiac to pivot or twist like a human torso. The results are radical turns at high speeds as its high-torque electric motor drives the vehicle over practically any sort of terrain; thus its name.

But George Benz, director of marketing for Tyco Radio Control, said the toy will not be limited to solid surfaces. The sphere drive is hollow, helping to provide buoyancy as well as locomotion when the Terrainiac takes to the water.

“The tricky part of development is making these toys have tremendous performance on land and really deliver when it gets wet,” he said.

WowWee, whose previous creations include the robotic toy Robosapien, is also working on a radio-controlled vehicle for release this year that walks on four spidery, multijointed legs. It is called Roboquad and is expected to cost $100.

There’s also a remote-controlled spymobile with an onboard video camera (which is a bit creepy, IMO), a flying wing thing, a 6″ foam helicopter, and there was also brief mention of a remote-controlled blimp.

I had Legos, Capsela, and Darda Cars. Actually, I guess I made out pretty well – although I remember being bummed that I missed Transformers by about 5 years.

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology


  • 1. Anonymous  |  February 8th, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    If only I were 25 years younger

    dude…You need to get yourself a little one. They give you cover to get all those toys that you always wanted.
    “I need to get that RC helo for playing with Devon…”

  • 2. GoodOlWhatsisFace  |  February 9th, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    ah, Blimps.. reminds me of one of the funniest stories/web postings I’ve ever read:
    “The Horror of Blimps”

    Read and enjoy (if you haven’t already – I think this story circled the world several times in a matter of weeks or even days).

  • 3. Eli  |  February 9th, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Heh heh heh. I had *not* seen that – it’s brilliant. Thank you.

  • 4. Anonymous  |  September 30th, 2007 at 6:31 am

    I finally got a chance to try out the Tyco Terrainiac, and it’s a very cool toy, both on land and on water! You can see videos in the Terrainiac review at RC Mania. If you like it, you should treat yourself to one, regardless of your age! Enjoy!

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