It's easy to miss cool products at CES, particularly if they're tucked away in the back of a secondary convention hall miles away from the main convention center. Such is the case for Spin Master's Air Hogs Connect, an augmented reality drone game that was being demoed in a small space covered with mesh Faraday material to block out unwanted wireless signals in the Sands Convention Center as part of Tech West.
In case you've never heard of Spin Master, it's a leading company in the remote (RC) vehicle market and makes lots of other kids toys, including relatively inexpensive quadcopter drones.
A little like Skylanders in the sense that Air Hogs Connect marries a physical toy with a digital game, you fly an actual Air Hogs Quad while engaging in missions and completing goals in the companion video game on your tablet or phone. Some of these missions include shooting aliens, rescuing people and putting out fires.
To set up the game you simply lay out the augmented reality mat on the floor and make sure your phone or tablet's camera is pointed in the general direction of both the mat and the drone. You can fly for about 7-10 minutes before you then have to recharge the quadcopter. But that's about how long most missions take.
It's worth noting that the quad is a completely new product and Spin Master's first to include LED lights, which are necessary for creating the augmented reality experience. It's also easy to fly. The drone immediately parks itself in a neutral hover mode shortly after take off and just sits there. That's its default flight position until you steer it left/right or up/down.
Look for Spin Master to come out this fall in time for the holiday gift season. It'll most likely carry a list price of $199.99 in the US. No word yet on international pricing.