Image courtesy of Spin Master
Radio-controlled toys have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years thanks to improved controller technology and an emphasis on personality. No longer restricted to fast cars and monster trucks, this line of playthings now also includes animals that can serve as proxy pets for children. One impressive example that has been flying off shelves this holiday season is Spin Master's award-winning Zoomer Dino.
The Zoomer Dino comes in several different colors and is modeled on every kid's notion of a Tyrannosaurus rex. That is, other than the fact that it's only about a foot tall and it stands on wheels instead of hind feet. It's outer surface is smooth, shiny plastic but the overall construction feels solid and robust, which is just as well considering that it will probably collide with cupboards and walls on a regular basis.
The Zoomer Dino has two modes of control: hand gestures and an infra-red remote controller. If you wave your hand in front of the sensors on its nose, you can get it to move its tail, sit and make noises. To get it to travel any distance, though, you need to use the controller. This teardrop-shaped unit fits in the palm of one hand.
To get the Zoomer Dino up and running you will need to put three AAA batteries in the hand controller. You will also need to charge the Dino's internal battery with the supplied mini USB cable. Connect this to a computer or a power outlet and the battery will charge from flat in about one hour. Spin Master estimates that the Zoomer Dino will run for 20 to 30 minutes on a full charge.
On the upper surface of the controller is a joystick that is much like those on video game controllers. This joystick makes it easy to get the Dino to rotate on its wheels. However, with the controller pointing what is presumably forwards (i.e., with the signal emitters at the front), we found that leaning the joystick to the right made the Dino turn its head to the left and vice versa, which took some getting used to.
Behind the joystick, there is what Spin Master calls an 'Angry Button'. When you press this the Dino's eyes glow red and it makes agitated noises. On the controller's lower surface, meanwhile, is one button that causes the beast to open and close its jaws in a chomping motion and another button that makes it run forwards or backwards on its wheels. At full tilt the Dino moves at a decent pace but it isn't so fast that it becomes uncontrollable by a child with a reasonable degree of hand-to-eye co-ordination.
In its marketing, Spin Master makes a concerted effort to imbue the Zoomer Dino with personality traits in the hope that kids will see it as something more than just a robot. To back that up they have programmed it to continually make cute grunting and squeaking noises and move around of its own accord within a confined area. To children, these animated behaviors might create the illusion of life. This, in turn, could mean that the Dino holds their attention for longer periods than traditional radio-controlled toys that are static when the controller is not in use.
At around $100 the Zoomer Dino is not within every parent's budget. Also, there is a risk, as with all radio-controlled toys, that it will lose its playtime appeal once its various tricks are no longer a novelty, especially if the batteries have run down. Moreover, the Dino is intended as an indoor toy so children shouldn't take it for a spin through the nearest sand pit.
What the Zoomer Dino has in its favor, though, is that the 'creature' itself can be recharged and it is comparatively easy to control. What's more, it's possibly the cutest radio-controlled animal you'll currently find on store shelves. If you have a child who loves the idea of walking with dinosaurs around the house, you are sure to get whoops of glee if you put this under the tree this festive season.