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Josh Gulick - Geek Dad

Fatherhood opened up a whole new world of gadgets for Josh Gulick. Who knew that baby monitors could be so cool? But time marches on and Josh is facing Christmas with two kids in elementary school. That means drones, robots, and other STEM fun. It’s a good time to be a tech dad.

Ozobot
Ozobot - $49
Board games are dominating our family nights, lately. Chess, checkers and Monopoly are still as much fun as they were when I was a kid, but there are some excellent new games and toys to add to the shelf. One is Ozobot, a tiny robot that gets its marching orders from the colors it sees on the ground. When you draw lines and dots on a piece of paper with ordinary markers, you’re telling Ozobot where to go – and simultaneously learning the basics of coding. Grab your tablet, install the Ozobot app, and you have a brand-new game board for the little roamer. You can pick up an Ozobot Start Pack, which includes the bot and some markers, or you can go for the Ozobot Bit, which has built-in support for being reprogrammed by your little coder…or you. Let’s be honest, you’re getting this for you.

Parrot Jumping Sumo
Parrot Jumping Sumo - $159
Just thinking about the pandemonium this little robot is going to cause at family holiday gatherings puts a smile on my face. The Jumping Sumo rolls just about anywhere on its huge wheels, but what makes it really cool is that it can jump as high as 2.5 feet, meaning chairs and even tables are within reach. The robot always lands on its wheels, and because it has a camera, you’ll always see where it’s headed, even if you’re not within sight of it. You can push the wheels closer to the robot to make it faster, or you can extend the wheels for better control. The Sumo takes its commands from your tablet, which is how you’ll watch the stream from its built-in camera. And it’s easy to disassemble the robot and replace parts, meaning it will last your kid long past most of the gifts he or she will get this year.

UDI Drone
UDI Discovery 818A HD+ RC Quadcopter - $119
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, are everywhere these days. Shopping for one is much like picking out an RC car: the least expensive models tend to sacrifice control and are more likely to break down from typical wear-and-tear. At the high-end, quadcopters can run into the thousands of dollars, but you won’t need to spend that kind of money for a decent experience. One reasonably-priced option is the Discovery UDI 818A HD+ RC Quadcopter, which has an extra battery to extend flying time. It also has a 2MP camera for photos and 30 fps videos that are recorded to a 4GB microSD card. You can do flips and rolls with this quadcopter, but its best feature is the Return Home command, which sends it flying back to you. UDI has a ton of quadcopters at varying price points, so you may want to research its drones a bit before settling on one.

Leap Frog Leap TV
Leap Frog LeapTV - $59
Leap Frog made the jump from kid-friendly tablets to a true video game console for TVs last year. It launched just in time for the holidays, so I picked one up, and I’ve been listening to Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man ever since. The console comes with a camera so you can play games with hand gestures and many of the games involve loads of movement – particularly LeapTV Sports. It also comes with a controller, which transforms into a wand for certain motion-sensitive games. The titles are all aimed at young kids, so the LeapTV probably won’t impress a kid who already has a Nintendo console, but for the uninitiated, the LeapTV is magic. And, importantly, the titles are usually $20 each.

samsung galaxy tab s2
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 - $349
This is one present that could quickly end up becoming a “for the family” gift. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and sports an 8-inch, 2048x1536 Super AMOLED display. It’s a legitimately useful tool for homework and it’s ready to provide some entertainment the next time you kick back on the couch. As we noted in our review, the Galaxy Tab S2 has less-than stellar battery life, so plan to charge it often. After all, it’s going to get used by everybody.

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