Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
While gaming has certainly matured over the past few decades and more adults are playing them now than at any time since arcade machines were the rage, video games are hardly for the 18 and up set alone. Some of the best titles around are made not specifically for kids, but with more of an all-ages focus in mind, seeking to provide something enjoyable for children, adults, or even the entire family who wants to team up to conquer new challenges. Here are some of this year’s releases which fit that bill.
Rayman Legends – Despite a high-profile demo garnering attention on the Wii U last year, this follow-up to Rayman Origins was delayed to an August release so that it could also be released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The left-to-right gameplay is slightly similar in some ways to games such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii U, specifically the ability for up to four to play at once on one screen. On the Wii U, a fifth player can join in with the GamePad controller and manipulate the environment to help others along.
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix – Square Enix has finally announced the eagerly-anticipated third installment in the series that dared to answer the question of what would happen if characters from their stable of role-playing games met those from the wonderful world of Disney. But as that isn’t due for a while yet, they’re biding their time by re-releasing the original game and its side-story follow-up, Re:Chain of Memories, in high definition. This collector’s package also includes a motion picture retelling of the events of another installment, 358/2 Days, as a nearly three-hour cinematic compilation.
Skylanders Swap Force – The title that managed to fuse toys and video games like no other before it is back for a third round. As the name alludes to, the Swap Force is a group of 16 new Skylanders characters who are able to swap out their top and bottom halves to gain new powers and abilities throughout 256 possible combinations. A solid 17 new levels await, and as before, you can continue using characters from previous Skylanders games, complete with all their levels and abilities still intact.
Disney Infinity – Disney knows a good thing when it sees it, and when it saw Activision’s Skylanders, it wanted a piece of that action. The result is Disney Infinity, which allows you to not only purchase figures of different Disney characters from hit series ranging from The Incredibles to Monsters University and Pirates of the Caribbean to Phineas and Ferb, but also different world and power discs, which dictate where you play and what added abilities you have, respectively. The star attraction, however, is the Toy Box mode, where you can mix characters and items from different Disney worlds to create your own fun.
Pikmin 3 – Ever wonder what it’s like to be the size of an ant? The latest title from the creator of Mario puts you in control of a crew of three tiny spacemen who have crash-landed on a mysterious planet where everything around them is enormous. Everything, that is, accept the friendly plant-people known as the Pikmin, who do their humble best to help our intrepid explorers to take on fierce predators and solve puzzles to claim the large pieces of fruit needed to provide sustenance to their hungering homeworld. A new Bingo Battle multiplayer mode also allows you compete with a friend as you each race to collect the four fruits needed to form a row on your card.
The Wonderful 101 – What do you get when you cross Power Rangers with Pikmin, and multiply them by 20? You get the Wonderful 100 (the other one is “you”), a team of superheroes who travel en masse and use the power of Unite Morphing to create large Green Lantern-esque constructs, from the Unite Fist and the Unite Sword to the Unite Gun and Unite Bomb. The more heroes you have in your team, the more powerful your attacks. And you’ll need that power if you’re to stop the giant forces of the invading alien terrorists known as the GEATHJERK. Additionally, up to four other players can join in for cooperative gameplay by using Wii U Pro Controllers.
DuckTales Remastered – Those who grew up with DuckTales in The Disney Afternoon are now old enough to have their own children, but the everlasting appeal of Disney’s characters and stories provides a unique opportunity for them to share this adventure with a new generation. Capcom, WayForward, and Disney have come together to remake the classic ’80s Nintendo Entertainment System title with high definition graphics, new features, and a reunion of all the surviving cast members from the show– including the 93-year old Alan Young as Uncle Scrooge and the 96-year old June Foray as Magica De Spell! This version of the game was originally released as a download-only title, but is also being released at retail for $19.99.
WWE 2K14 – A perennial favorite, World Wrestling Entertainment’s latest outing comes under the flag of a new publisher in 2K Sports. Boasting numerous new improvements to improve the feel and dramatic tension of the action, WWE 2K14 is also celebrating 30 years of WrestleMania with a single-player campaign of the same name. A whopping 45 matches look back on and allow players to recreate landmark moments throughout WWE’s history, from the rise of Hulkamania in the 80’s to the rise of New Generation stars such as Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart in the early 90’s, and beyond. Pre-orders get to use the Ultimate Warrior as a playable character, and a special “Phenom Edition” of the game will also be available, containing extras based on the Undertaker, such as his “American Bad***” biker persona.
Rocksmith 2014 – Whereas Guitar Hero and Rock Band allowed music fans to pretend they were playing a guitar, Rocksmith 2014 actually teaches you how to do so by plugging in an actual electric guitar or bass. Designed as a replacement to the previous 2011 release, rather than a sequel, this version features 85 lessons and other features, including different modes to help players learn, improve, and further challenge themselves. Meanwhile, those who purchased the original will find value in the newly-added songs and modes now included.
Need for Speed: Rivals – Whether you’re on your fifth vehicle or aren’t even old enough to touch the pedals without receiving a severe scolding, who doesn’t love the thrill of fast cars? Need for Speed: Rivals follows on from the series’ prior Hot Pursuit installment with players taking on the role of either a speeding racer or the police officer tasked with stopping them. Cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes are included, with the new “AllDrive” system allowing you to switch between them seamlessly. And for the hardcore car enthusiasts, there are numerous customization options for the numerous brands of cars featured in the game, including Ferrari, who hasn’t been a regular part of the series since 2002.
Even if you’re not a self-professed gearhead or gadget enthusiast, it’s impossible to avoid technology’s growing influence: From smartphones to tablets, streaming media extenders to cutting-edge gaming systems, high-tech advancements are increasingly permeating all facets of everyday life. Happily, as a working parent, business owner, and longtime fan of consumer electronics, I’m pleased to say that it continues to open doors for today’s end-user – literally hundreds of options in every connected category now offer incredible (and incredibly accessible and affordable) ways to work, play and have more fun. Being a practical man though, I’m all about picking the mobile devices and gadgets that are laser-focused on everyday value. As you can see from some recent collections of awe-inspiring new gadgets and accessories we’ve assembled, the key to picking the right high-tech gear is choosing the gizmos, accessories and features that make life simpler and more enjoyable on a day-to-day basis.
With so many options to pick from in every area of consumer electronics from HDTVs to digital cameras, we already try to strike a balance in terms of performance and practicality when it comes to helping friends and family compile their wish lists for the 2014 holiday season. As you’ll quickly see from top reviewed picks such as the iPad Air, PlayStation 4 and Garmin nuvi 3597LMT HD, most of our selections offer a wide array of both entertaining and practical uses, and are continually being expanded via additional software downloads. (Many free of charge – score!) You, see when it comes to choosing the best technology gifts for the holidays, it’s important to focus on maximizing bang for the buck, and buying devices that not only serve a variety of exciting functions from social networking to beaming down streaming videos, but can also double in place of other gadgets. If you take a look at some of the recent suggestions we’ve compiled (you can see several collections at eBay, where we’ll be regularly updating readers with recommended picks) from the best travel gadgets to innovative new ways to work and play, you may notice a running theme. Specifically, that all include selections that don’t just meet a variety of needs and interests, and boast features you’re likely to use on a running basis, but also are easily expandable to become even more entertaining and useful over time.
If you’re buying on a budget, no need to fear either: Plenty of chic smartphones, eye-catching tablet PCs and accessories, and high-tech toys for kids of all ages can help get you connected. And if you look online, you’ll notice a promising trend: More and more great options are available to choose from with each passing day, and quickly falling in price. Whether it’s a Kindle Fire HDX tablet or Beats by Dre Studio set of headphones that’s caught your eye, a quick glance online reveals dozens of deals available in every category, so you can pick up some serious high-end hardware without breaking the bank. Better yet, it’s not just actual devices that are getting an upgrade either. As with downloadable apps, courtesy of growing online and Internet multiplayer capabilities, today’s best video games and family-friendly game choices for every system no longer end, but rather begin with what’s in the box instead. Across the board, these upgrades add up to devices, online services and apps that are more compelling, more varied, and more useful with each passing day.
Moreover, you don’t have to be a self-professed geek to get the most out of any of these choices either. Thanks to the growing popularity of touch-screens, hyper-intuitive applications and speedy setup procedures, users of every experience level will quickly find today’s top mobile devices and gadgets increasingly simple to enjoy. So if you haven’t put high-tech gear and accessories on your list of top picks for friends and family this year, I highly recommend doing so. You’d be amazed just how much of a hit technology can be with all interests and ages – and how much the entire gang will get out of the experience. As an added bonus, thanks to widespread Internet access, growing availability of streaming media and increasing social network and sharing capabilities, realize – most devices make for gifts that keep on giving.
We invite you to stay tuned throughout the holidays as we continue to bring you a growing selection of top choices to keep an eye on, and make the gift-giving process easier. To keep up with many of our favorites and share your own collections, be sure to stay tuned to our top picks, which we’ll continue to post at eBay, and check back regularly over here at TechSavvyMag.com as well. Stick around, and you may be surprised at just what kind of sparkle the season has to offer. We’re thrilled and delighted to help share these highlights with you and yours – especially with so many great gadgets now easily affordable and accessible to a skyrocketing number of enthusiasts.
eBay Collections are curated in collaboration with eBay.
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While it’s hard to believe just how fast summer has flown by, the new school season is finally here and in full swing for students of all ages. With millions of teens, tweens, and school-aged kids returning or preparing to head back to classrooms nationwide, now’s the perfect time to consider giving your family’s learning experience a 21st century upgrade. Offering a more engaging and interactive approach to lectures, lessons and guided instruction, technology provides a great hands-on complement to traditional teaching methods, helping kids get more out of every learning exercise. Here, we’ve teamed up with some top tech companies to highlight a number of great gadgets that can enhance education both inside and out of the classroom.
Right off the bat, one tip to keep in mind when shopping for a new computer, laptop or tablet is to start by picking an operating system that offers students lots of learning tools. With Windows 8 devices, for example, you get support for programs like Office 365 University, multitasking tools like Snap, study apps like Flashcards Pro, and free online backup and sharing with SkyDrive. There’s a wide range of Windows 8 devices for every need and budget as well: The OS is available on desktop, portable and tablet PCs alike. Right now, Microsoft is currently running a “Chip-In” program where friends and family can contribute money towards the purchase of a Windows 8 PC as well: Microsoft will actually chip in a 10% discount with free shipping and no tax – a great deal, especially if you’re on a budget.
One of many great laptops that runs the operating system and comes highly recommended for college and high school students is the HP Pavilion 11 TouchSmart Notebook, which is powered by the latest AMD A-series dual-core processor. In plain English, that means that students can enjoy a super-powerful, touchscreen laptop that’s well-suited to education or entertainment purposes. Lightweight and portable, the system also happens to be surprisingly affordable, clocking in at under $400. One feature you’ll especially enjoy about the HP TouchSmart notebook is that it can also resume from sleep mode in seconds for fast access to email, social media, music and more, given built-in AMD Start Now Technology. A fun and user-friendly study tool, it’s also an unexpectedly cost-conscious solution as well.
If your student is one of many who uses their iPhone to access educational apps and study, organize and learn, then you also know that battery life can be a concern as well. Thankfully, Duracell’s Powermat iPhone 5 solutions offer a way to more than double your iPhone 5’s battery life so you’re never caught without power. Its handy AccessCase protects your device, while snap-on, snap-off battery attachments let you pack as much power as you need and a portable TravelMat allows for easy to-go wireless charging. The company also just came out with its new wireless backup battery line called Go Power which works with both micro and regular USB port devices – i.e. many popular mobile gadgets. It offers three backup battery power options, so no matter how long students are away from power sources, they can keep their devices from dying.
If you’re looking for more awesome educational apps and gadgets, you might also check out the following solutions, just a few of many high-tech learning tools now available to students.
- Evernote – Clips and stores text, photos, web pages and more so you never lose track of your thoughts.
- PBS Parents Play and Learn – Offers fun games and activities that teach kids about math, reading and more.
- Graphing Calculator – Saves you from buying a standalone scientific calculator.
- Learn With Homer – Introduces children to the magic of reading.
- Studious – Helps with planning and organizing homework assignments.
- Kindle Paperwhite – The popular eBook reader offers on-demand access to thousands of textbooks, books, and periodicals.
- Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case – Protects your tablet PC while adding a travel-friendly physical keyboard, great for typing longer documents.
- Microsoft Surface Pro – Provides a powerful and versatile hands-on portable computing experience, marrying the best features of tablet PCs and traditional laptops.
- Parrot Zik Headphones – In addition to awesome audio quality, these critically-acclaimed cans also offer noise-canceling capabilities, handy when studying in shared spaces or during late-night cram sessions.
From massively online open courses to learning apps, it’s clear that technology is quickly reshaping the face of education. The good news for kids, parents and teachers alike: You can’t find a better tool to instantly grab and engage students.