James Bond would love these spy toys

There have been spy toys in the past, but this season’s batch will make you think that Q has quit his gig for MI5 and set up shop in toyland. With high-powered real audio and visual capturing capabilities, these “toys” pose real privacy issues. But just looking in terms of technology and design…they’re pretty amazing. (Of course, these are all prototypes and we have not tested any of them with kids yet.)

Spin Master has taken control of the Spy Gear line from Wild Planet and given it a real “spy like” make over.  We were intrigued by the Laser Defense Network ($19.99). Here you set up the devices to create a red beam of light.  If someone breaks the red line by passing through, an alarm will sound. Their Spike Mic Launcher includes an audio mic dart that you can shoot off onto a wall and grab 30 minutes of sound. (We don’t recommend projectile toys as a rule but we thought the design/function were worth a mention). The Panosphere 360 Spy Cam really got our attention.

Spin Master's Panosphere 360 Spy Camera

Spin Master’s Panosphere 360 Spy Camera

The small probe like device (close to the size of a tennis ball) can be rolled into any room and then allows you to capture video (and sound) with a full panoramic 360 degree view.  The software platform will enable users to access different perspectives each time they look at a video.  Amazing if it works.

Spy Net Let Detector from Jakks Pacific

Spy Net Let Detector from Jakks Pacific

Now once you’ve captured your spy…you’ll want to test whether the information he’s giving you is reliable.  To assist with your interrogation, you may want to consider Jakks Pacific’s new Spy Net Lie Detector.  (At first I thought this was the name of the evil company  in the Terminator movies–but that’s Sky Net). The three biometric sensors scan your body for temperature and brain activity – all meant to help determine the veracity of a statement. There is a free downloadable APP (of course there is) to help with the questions.

We will be testing these toys and posting our reviews to


Should I buy….A New Weekly Feature!

I love the emails we get from testers and readers about specific toys. One of our long time testers suggested we do this type of exchange more openly…I agree.  So each week, I will start a conversation “Should I Buy”…I’m also open to other names for this new feature!  If I haven’t tested the toy yet we may find someone who has—or as we often do, we can request the toy for testing so that we can consider it for everyone on our site.

So bring it! Look forward to conversation.

Here’s the image of the Eco Mic from iplay that we’re discussing below–

A long day playing with toys…

As we all enjoy summer, there are so many people working on the 2009 Holiday Season.  As toy reviewers, we are in that group–and when we used to do the annual book, we were always a year ahead. Our annual book was always designed for the next year—so at any given point in time, I had great confusion as to which year we were actually in. I told my kids that if I ended up in a ER someplace and was being given an exam that included naming the date…please don’t have them be alarmed if I was off a bit. (Morbid…a little I guess.)

I have to say our new web-based system (new and improved website coming for fall)…has improved our general spirits here considerably.  For the 15 years we did the book, we had to be done writing by July 4th- no joke or we wouldn’t make the printer deadline.   The next week would be filled with the copy-editor’s notes and then a round of inserts for toys that arrived just in time.  We reserved space and copy for things we thought would be terrific…and then adjust them accordingly before we went to print.  The last book we did never saw the light of day due to the lead issues.  Painful that we did all of that work – it was a good edition.

The web has allowed us to write longer reviews and to be less concerned about hard and fast dates.

The lack of such an extreme deadline has also meant that my mother and I no longer have our annual June fight–where we’d start arguing over some book or some toy…that of course had nothing to do with any specific product but just the tension of getting a book out with so many details that had to be fact-checked.  Our working relationship has been one of the treasured experiences of my adult life. We still laugh when a really ridiculous product comes across our desk–and we still marvel at a toy that seems to get it just right.