Blu-Bot Moves and Grooves

Blu-Bot on GeekMom
Excited to try out Blu-Bot. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

Recently, my son Joey and I had an opportunity to review the Blu-Bot robot toy from Silverlit. We are definitely a household of robot enthusiasts, toy and otherwise, so we were very excited to take Blu-Bot out of the box and see what he had to offer.

Blu-Bot on GeekMom
The Blu-Bot’s packaging. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

Blu-Bot is shipped in an informative and eye-catching package. Open the Velcro cover to see Blu-Bot’s color (black or white) and to read some basic instructions. At a glance, you’ll be able to see all of the functions he performs with and without his companion app.

In manual mode, without the app, he dances, detects obstacles, acts as a guard, and is able to talk to other Blu-Bot robots. Using the control panel on the back of the robot, you can program his facial expressions and movements, up to 40 steps.

Blu-Bot on GeekMom
Blu-Bot’s control panel. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

Blu-Bot also works with a free app on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android devices. Look for the appropriate app for your device in the App Store or the Google Play Store. For our review, we used an iPhone 5.

With the app, you can drag and drop icons to create a program. Make him walk, turn his head, change his facial expression, and speak with up to 39 steps. You can choose from several pre-built dance sequences. Blu-Bot can even change your voice. Record a phrase and choose from six preset robot sounds. Blu-Bot will play back your phrase in a robot voice, and the distortion is pretty humorous. You can also use a gesture control feature to give Blu-Bot instant moves.

Blu-Bot on GeekMom
He lights up and has many facial expressions! Photo: Maryann Goldman.

We found Blu-Bot easy to use out of the box. He’s recommended for ages 5+, and I think that’s accurate. Even younger kids can use beginning programming skills to drag his movement icons around and build a quick program.

Blu-Bot can even be used as a Bluetooth speaker. Once you have him paired to your device, play a song, and listen on the Blu-Bot speaker. How cool is that?!? The sound was decent, and he’s functional even when your child isn’t playing with him.

Without a doubt, our favorite feature was the voice-changing option. It’s so easy to record a simple phrase, choose from six different pitch settings, and hear Blu-Bot repeat your phrase in a cute and funny robot voice. This feature is sure to make your child giggle loudly and smile ear-to-ear.

We have several other robot toys in the house including Dash and Dot from the Wonder Workshop, the Lego Mindstorms EV3, and Darkside Ollie by Sphero. Considering that Blu-Bot is under $50, he’s quite functional and a perfect beginning programming toy for a robot enthusiast.

You can find Blu-Bot and other Silverlit toys at your local discount store and at Amazon.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Canadians: Win a $25 Gift Certificate From Fortress Geek

Fortress Geek
Image courtesy of Fortress Geek

One lucky Canadian GeekMom reader will win a $25.00 CAD electronic gift certificate courtesy of Fortress Geek.

Fortress Geek is Canada’s destination to shop for geeky toys and accessories. Fortress Geek launched their online store in May 2013. Canadians enjoy many benefits shopping at Fortress Geeks, including big savings, free shipping on all orders over $100.00 CAD, multiple payment methods including cash, check and money orders, the ability to request items, and much more.

Now, Fortress Geek wants to give one Canadian resident $25.00 to help celebrate their launch.

To enter our giveaway just login to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email so we can let you know if you win). You can then like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for up to two entries! If you already like or follow us, you’ll still be entered in the giveaway. A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest and their name will be posted right in the Rafflecopter widget so you can check back to see who won.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Comparison Shopping at Fortress Geek

Fortress Geek
Fortress Geek logo provided by Fortress Geek. Used with permission.

In May 2013, Fortress Geek launched their online store, Canada’s destination to purchase geeky toys and accessories.

I wrote earlier about some of the benefits my fellow Canadians will enjoy when shopping at Fortress Geek, such as saying good-bye to high customs and brokerage fees, free shipping on orders over $100.00 CAD, and multiple payment options, including cash, check, and money order. But what about pricing? How do Fortress Geek’s prices compare to their American competitors?

To answer these questions, let me compare three items that are available at Fortress Geek with one of our favorite U.S. competitors: ThinkGeek.

Star Trek Tek Classic Phaser

Star Trek Phaser
Image: Fortress Geek

This prop replica is a must have for any fan of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is a Type I and Type II combination, complete with lights and sounds, with four power settings. These settings include progressive lights and sounds, the light control knob is an on/off switch, it has a flip-up sight, and you can set your phaser to overload. The only thing you cannot do with this phaser is actually fire at Klingons.

Price at Fortress Geek: $42.95 CAD

Price at ThinkGeek: $39.99 USD

The Big Bang Theory Soft Kitty Slippers

Soft Kitty Slippers
Image: Fortress Geek

I have to say, I like these slippers more than I thought I would. I have Tribble slippers. I love that the Tribbles purr when I walk. However, the Tribble slippers are a one-size fits all type of deal. So, in order to not send the Tribbles flying as I walk, I have to curl my toes. Now, the Soft Kitty slippers don’t purr, purr, purr when you walk, but they do come in different sizes. Small fits big kids’ 3-5 and women’s 6-7, medium fits men’s 6-7 and women’s 8-9, large fits men’s 8-9 and women’s 10-11.

Price at Fortress Geek: $34.95 CAD

Price at ThinkGeek: $29.99 USD

The Big Bang Theory Bazinga! Mug

Bazinga Mug
Image: Fortress Geek

Coffee. It fuels many a geek’s day. If coffee isn’t your thing, I’m sure Sheldon would approve of adding your favorite hot beverage to this mug. Fortress Geek’s product description says that it holds 11 ounces, while ThinkGeek’s description says it holds eight ounces. Both are correct. Filling it with eight ounces of coffee leaves plenty of room for cream and sugar. Filling it with 11 ounces of your hot beverage of choice leaves a one-ounce buffer zone to the mug’s brim.

Price at Fortress Geek: $8.95 CAD

Price at ThinkGeek: $9.99 USD

Now, it’s time for some math.

Even though I would never choose DHL for the shipping method at ThinkGeek, because it is the cheapest method, I’m using that price instead of UPS. For the cost of customs and brokerage fees, I’m using the cost associated with my last ThinkGeek order that had a similar total. The exchange rate is based on the rate for September 15, 2013.

Item Fortress Geek ThinkGeek
Star Trek Phaser $42. 95 CAD $39.99 USD
Soft Kitty Slippers $34.95 CAD $29.99 USD
Bazinga! Mug $8.95 CAD $9.99 USD
Shipping $13.98  CAD (Canada Post) $24.94  USD (DHL)
Subtotal $100.83 CAD $104.91 USD
Adjusted for exchange rate from USD to CAD. N/A $108.47 CAD
Customs and brokerage fees N/A $25.20 CAD
Total $100.83 CAD $133.67 CAD

 

That is a total savings of $32.84 CAD.

If I were to add just a little bit more to my order, I would be eligible for free shipping for even more savings. Or, if I lived in the Vancouver, B.C. area, I could arrange to pick up my order for free.

Next week, I’ll be giving one lucky Canadian GeekMom reader a $25.00 CAD electronic gift certificate, courtesy of Fortress Geek.

GeekMom was provided these items for the purposes of this post.

Canadians: Say Hello to Fortress Geek

Fortress Geek
If you are like me and live in Canada, you may be frustrated when it comes to buying geeky toys and accessories for you and your family. Why? Because most of our favorite online geeky retailers are based in the United States, which means being hit with high shipping costs, plus customs and brokerage fees on most orders exceeding $50.00 USD.

Canadians, you can now say “goodbye” to those fees and say “hello” to Fortress Geek.

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Fortress Geek launched in May 2013.

As Fortress Geek is a new company, they are still building their inventory. Currently, they have just under 400 items from which to choose. These items include toys, clothing, and accessories from our favorite fandoms, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, The Big Bang Theory, and Game of Thrones. Fortress Geek is constantly adding to their inventory, nearly doubling their stock since launching in May. If there is something you’d like them to add to their stock, let them know and they’ll see if they can make it so.

Aside from saying goodbye to all those extra costs, Fortress Geek has some other benefits that may excite my fellow Canadians:

  1. Free shipping on all orders over $100.00 CAD.
  2. You can pay with BitCoins, cheque or money order, PayPal, Visa or MasterCard, and American Express or Discover Card via PayPal.
  3. If you live in the Vancouver area, you can wave shipping and arrange to pick up your order at their West 7th Ave location. This option also allows you to pay with cash. If you attempt to drop by the Fortress Geek warehouse without first placing an order online, there is a $2.50 CAD service fee.
  4. For a $5.00 CAD fee, you can have your entire order gift wrapped, with a custom gift message.
  5. Fortress Geek has electronic gift certificates.
  6. Fortress Geek will hold your order, for up to one month, if you want to arrange for your shipment to coincide with some special date. Full payment of the order will be charged when the hold is lifted.
  7. Fortress Geek has weekly sales.
  8. Yes, Fortress Geek will ship internationally, if you want to send gifts to friends who reside outside of Canada.

If you are wondering about savings, I’ll be comparing prices in another post.

I, for one, am excited to welcome Fortress Geek; our new Canadian geek overloards!

12 Days of Awesomely Geeky Gifts: Teifoc Building Sets

If you’ve got a budding mason in your family, or if you’re looking for a gift that is far from run-of-the-mill, you’ve got to check out the Teifoc building sets. While Legos might rule the roost as far as popularity is concerned, Teifoc sets from Germany give you a much more immersive experience.

It’s really a very simple concept: brick and mortar, in miniature size. Recommended for the 8+ crowd, it does take some getting used to. There are no easy short-cuts to make the beautiful castles and houses pictured on the boxes. It’s a process, more than anything, made of earth-friendly materials and designed with long-term play in mind. What I mean is that it’s not a simple sit-down and create kind of toy. It takes time and concentration to get a good result. It’s not just learning about building; the Teifoc sets are a great springboard for learning about physics. Someday, if I had the time, I’d love to try my hand at a freestyle cathedral — though I’m not sure I could quite manage Gothic style.

Anyway, as we learned here at home, the effort is definitely worth it. If you and your kids enjoy the challenge of creating truly remarkable little structures, and want to put the time into it, I can’t suggest Teifoc enough. If, however, you’re not in it for the long-haul and you’d rather just cut to the chase, well, this isn’t exactly for you. The contents of the box are simple: bricks, specialty building pieces (like windows and doors and roof tiles), a mini trowel, and mortar.

My favorite part about Teifoc is that after building one structure, that isn’t the end. Soaking the bricks in water dissolves the mortar. So everything is totally reusable!