LAS VEGAS--This is the coolest toy I've ever seen: the Parrot AR.Drone, a remote-controlled helicopter with a twist. It's controlled over Wi-Fi from an iPhone or iPod Touch, and it's got a camera in its snout that streams to your iPhone's screen.
The copter itself is computer-stabilized, so controlling it is much easier than the standard $40 toy RC helicopter you may be familiar with. But it should be: it'll cost in the neighborhood of $500, when it ships this year. You'll get about 15 minutes of battery-powered fun on a 1-hour charge.
You tilt your iPhone to steer the helicopter, with touch controls to adjust altitude.
The iPhone app features a virtual game mode, where the screen will show virtual enemies in front of your real 'copter, for you to strafe. Or you can just fly it around to spy on pets or neighbors. Two caveats, though: Its range is limited by Wi-Fi. If it manages to lose contact with your phone it will hover for a minute until you walk back into range (or it runs out of batteries). And it only works in still air or very light wind. If you take it out to your yard and try to fly it up over your house, you'll probably hit some currents that make it uncontrollable, I was told.
Parrot plans to open up the Wi-Fi control interface. I can't wait to see what the geeks come up with when that happens.