Xmas special: The best wacky gadgets of 2012

From smartphone laser tag to a mind-controlled helicopter, these techie toys bring the fun

The best wacky gadgets of 2012

Just because you work in IT doesn't mean technology has to be serious business all the time. Explore the fun-and-games side of tech with these silly gadgets.

AppTag smartphone laser tag

Have you ever played a first-person shooter and thought, "Man, it's be cool to play this for real, except without the threat of, you know, actual death"? If so, you are in luck, as AppTag bridges the gap between gaming and real-life shoot-outs with its hardware and app that turns iOS and Android devices into laser blasters. You can team up or go every-man-for-himself in a Halo-style game complete with health kits, body armor, and ammo packs.

Buy it here.

GoPoint GL1 auto diagnostics

"Check engine? Check it for what, exactly, dashboard light? Give me more information!" This app for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch will give you all the info that stubborn Check Engine light refuses to relay, so you can know exactly what's going on with your car and how urgently it needs to be repaired. Sure beats going all the way to your auto shop when all you needed was a new air filter, doesn't it?

Buy it here.

MaKey MaKey invention kit

The MaKey MaKey kit may be simple -- a circuit board, cables, alligator clips -- but the possibilities are endless. You can create all kinds of music interfaces, keyboards, and video games, to name a few. And if you have a child who loves building things, this will probably be right up his or her aisle.

Buy it here.

Mini-microscope for iPhone

Rest assured that the 21st-century Sherlock Holmes would carry this around instead of a bulky old magnifying glass. Just hook up this sucker to your iPhone 4 or 4S, and you can enjoy up to 60x magnification. The built-in LEDs help shed light on the subject as well.

Buy it here.

Puzzlebox Orbit

This is a remote-controlled helicopter that flies around, hovers, and does all the stuff helicopters do. Oh, wait, did I mention that the remote control is your brain? Yes, finally, you can move things with the sheer power of your mind, as long as the thing you want to move is this helicopter. Isn't that cool enough?

More info here.

Laser theater

Remember going to the planetarium to watch the Pink Floyd laser show? No? OK, remember your parents talking about going to the planetarium to watch the Pink Floyd laser show? Well, now you don't have to go to the planetarium to see it! Just set up this gadget, and you can project a huge light show with all kinds of variations, including 3D images. (Pink Floyd not included.)

Buy it here.

Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack

Your backpack may be good at carrying stuff, but when's the last time it recharged your goodies? These backpacks will do just that, thanks to the magic of solar panels. Each backpack can provide 4 watts of power to easily charge your handheld devices, and the battery can be charged by conventional means (USB, DC or AC current) if there's not enough sunlight.

Buy it here.

Bluetooth handset gloves

Nobody wants to be that person with the Bluetooth earpiece glued to the side of their head anymore. But with these gloves, the next time you make that "talking on the phone" thumb-and-pinkie gesture, you could actually be talking on the phone. Besides keeping your hands warm, these gloves feature a built-in Bluetooth speaker and microphone, so miming a phone conversation can become having a phone conversation. 

Buy them here.

Luggage finder

You're not the only one who thought that suitcase was just perfect. That's why you end up standing at the baggage carousel looking at 10 of the exact same suitcase glide by, leaving you to hope that nobody's grabbed your bag.

Fear not! Just put this wireless transmitter on your bag, and the accompanying keychain fob will beep and flash once your suitcase gets within 20 meters. Sadly, this device will not prevent flight delays or stop that jerk seated in front of you from reclining his seat onto your knees.

Buy it here.

Bluetooth sliding keyboard case for iPhone

Say you have an iPhone 4 or 4S, and as much as you like it, you just can't get used to typing on a touchscreen. Then you need an actual keyboard, and this case includes a slide-out-style Bluetooth keyboard that'll help keep your autocorrect function from working overtime.

Buy it here.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.