1. MiP This cute little robot is "about the weight of a can of soda," according to the spokesman who was having way too much fun demonstrating its capabilities. Perched on two wheels, MiP perfectly balances while he dances, fights or follows whatever pattern you scrawl onto your smartphone. You choose various modes by adjusting the left wheel. At $99 a pop, look for this to be under plenty of trees next December.
2. VEX IQ Now this is what I'm talkin' about. Looking like an Erector Set on steroids, VEX IQ is all about teaching students how things work. They build various models of cranes, loaders and other vehicles, after which they can control them with what looks like a PlayStation Dual Shock controller. Squarely aimed at schools, this will make you wish you were a student again.
3. Axpro Ever play that smartphone app, Flick Kick Football, where you try to kick a soccer ball past defenders? How about that game from decades ago, where you manipulated a plastic football, basketball or hockey player by snapping a piece of plastic? Axpro is a fusion of the two, with a kicker, goal, goal keeper, defensive players and some balls. You place the ball at the kicker's feet and control his direction and timing with your phone. You can recreate every scenario in Flick Kick In an age where everything is virtual, it was pretty cool to see all the smiles as people tried unsuccessfully to kick goals. (Did I mention it's challenging as hell?)
4. Newheel Think of this as a skateboard crossed with a Segway. It's a wheel surrounded on both the front and rear sides by steps for your feet. You stand as a skateboarder would, but the device does all the work, perfectly balancing you at the same time. Newheel is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign, and $1,300 will get you one as soon as production starts. This exhibit easily got the most exclamations of "I wanna try it!"
5. Kazooloo There were plenty of video games on display, but this one has a "wow" factor and an element of exercise. You hold your iPad's camera over a series of cardboard circles on the ground, each circle representing a new level in the game. As you focus in on a circle, it morphs into an animated version on your iPad. The level I tried featured a dragon flying out of the circle and right toward you, trying to kill you. To dodge him, you have to move around while holding your iPad. Make sure you've got lots of room in your living room before trying to escape the fiery beast!
6. Square One An app that's alarmingly simple ... and seriously addictive. You're given a series of squares, with the goal of turning them all the same color. While the first level starts easy, the game gets increasingly complex as you go. Be prepared to spend several mind-bending hours with this one. You've been warned.