For parents looking to prise their children away from a life online, there are plenty of tangible, inventive, educational and/or entertaining physical products out there for the tech-savvy children of 2015. Whether you're a parent, carer, relative or family friend – and whatever your price range – you're spoiled for choice when it comes to tech-related presents this year. Here are some of the best examples. If your children are constantly trying to get their hands on your tablet, it may make sense to buy them their own – with suitable rules about how much they use it, of course. Amazon's child-focused tablet is well worth a look.
Sony's original Aibo robotic dog blew the public's collective mind when it debuted in 1999, instantly becoming a cultural touchstone and commanding a rabidly loyal fan base. People still hold burials for their OG mechanical companions when they break down and can no longer be repaired. But two decades later, in an era when domestic and companion robots are increasingly commonplace, can the next Aibo iteration maintain that same feeling of wonder, that sense of futuristic whimsy its predecessor commanded? After spending two weeks living with the AI-powered pooch, I say yes. But it still pales in comparison to the real thing.
Korean children, already fast becoming a robot-friendly lot, have a new companion in Kibot, a monkey-faced bot that can read fairy tales, sing songs, take pictures, and make video calls via a display embedded in its tummy. Wireless operator KT Telecom started delivering the multitasking monkey today for 485,000 won ($447), plus wireless packages that can be purchased in 12- or 14-month installments. "It's really cute," said my 9-year-old friend Stella, a co-worker's daughter who visited CNET's offices today. "I would get one if it was in blue." Parents can also remotely control the 8-inch-tall wheeled robot via mobile phone and, using Wi-Fi, monitor their children (a feature that made Stella a tad apprehensive).
HTC may have taken a bolder approach in the smartphone world with its new U Ultra and U Play, but it's decided to play it safe with its roadmap for the rest of the year. After today's launch event in Taipei, I caught up with President of Smartphone and Connected Devices Business, Chialin Chang, who confirmed that HTC will only be releasing six to seven smartphones this year. While that's a drastic cut from last year's eleven to twelve models, he claims this has so far allowed the company to focus on its smartphones' core features, in a bid to put up a better fight against other brands. In the case of the two newest phones, Chang sees machine learning as their main selling point. The exec described the so-called Sense Companion virtual assistant as a combination of Google's Awareness API, device information and third-party data.
Intuition Robotics, a startup pioneering social companion technologies, has developed Elli•Q, an artificial intelligence robot companion that aims to keep older adults active and engaged. Elli•Q connects older adults with family and friends by making interactions with technology simple. Elli•Q' s social robot companion suggests a variety of digital content to keep its owner stimulated, including news, music, TED talks and audiobooks, while also suggesting activities in the physical world. "We wanted to create a companion that helps older adults keep active and engaged by intuitively connecting them with family and friends and help them overcome the complexity of the digital world," Intuition Robotics CEO and founder Dor Skuler, told IBTimes. "Elli•Q will help independent users discover engaging online content, adhere to their daily schedule and stay physically active."