From an extra-rugged smartphone to the perfect grilling fork, these 10 high-tech toys are ideal for summer
Summer gadget guide 2011
Casio G'zOne Commando
Nike+ SportWatch GPS
G-Form iPad Extreme Sleeve
Brookstone Always Perfect Chef's Fork with Digital Meat Thermometer
Pentax Optio WG-1
Éton American Red Cross Axis Self-Powered Safety Hub
iRobot Scooba 230
Polaris Ranger EV
See another slideshow: The best mobile accessories for your tablet
The Parrot AR.Drone ($300) is a flying "quadcopter" you control with your smartphone. When it was first released last summer, it worked only with the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, but now Android, Symbian and Bada users can play as well.
Four spinning rotors provide a unique flying experience -- like a real helicopter, the drone can hover in mid-air or fly forward. The device sends your smartphone streaming video captured by its front-mounted camera over an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network; you control the copter using an augmented reality app with soft keys for up and down, forward and back. There's a second high-res surveillance camera onboard for taking video and snapping photos.
In my tests, it took some practice to control the AR.Drone -- which is why every drone comes with a practice shell that protects the plastic parts; it's also good for indoor flying anytime. Once you've mastered the drone, it's amazing to see how high it can go -- up to 160 feet. I recommend flying in a large open area, because a gust of wind can carry the drone into a tree. Fortunately, Parrot offers spare parts at reasonable prices (not to mention helpful repair videos) to help you get flying again after a crash.
A caveat: The rechargeable battery lasted for only about 20 minutes in my tests. However, it charged quickly -- after about 45 minutes I was able to send the drone on another flight. Typical full charge time is more like 90 minutes.
Several multiplayer game apps let you fly your drone in the physical world as you compete in virtual ones: AR.Race for racing and AR.FlyingAce for conducting dogfights are both free, while the AR.Pursuit hunt/escape game is $2.99.