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Buy this: Ollie and Parrot Minidrones, the robots controlled by your phone

Still got presents to buy for a tech-obsessed loved one? Or maybe you got some Christmas cash and you’re keen to burn it on some cool gadgetry? Check out these two slick roboty drone things that you can control with your mobile phone…

Gosphero Ollie

The Gosphero Ollie is a cylindrical beast that can do a number of neat tricks, including spinning in circles and even flipping into the air, all with just a flick of your finger.

Set-up is reassuringly simple. All you have to do is charge up the little blighter via the bundled USB cable, then download the Ollie app (available for iOS and Android). When you open the app, it should connect automatically to the Ollie and then take you through the controls.

Ollie’s virtual dashboard is deceptively simple: the left side is devoted to driving around, while the right side is the tricks control board. Swipe your thumb in any direction on that right side to perform a specific trick, usually best achieved while the Ollie is tearing along at full pelt.

We found it best to use the Ollie in a wide open space, preferably with loads of home-made ramps scattered about the place. It takes a while to get the hang of its control, especially when mixing in tricks, but after a half hour of play, even young kids should start to get the hang of it. Just as well as we reckon younger users will get the most from the Ollie, while older tech fiends might want to check out Parrot’s offering instead…

Parrot MiniDrones: Rolling Spider

The Rolling Spider is the latest dinky drone from remote control maestros Parrot, and it’s just as much fun as their previous efforts. Sporting four mini rotor blades and some enormous plastic wheels, the Rolling Spider is ideal for flying around your home or office and is thankfully robust enough to survive the odd collision with a wall or the dog, with those wheels providing plenty of protection.

Like the Ollie, all you have to do is charge up the Rolling Spider via USB for a couple of hours and in the meantime download the FreeFlight 3 app from the App Store or Google Play. Once again, pairing is quick and painless – just open the app with the Spider switched on and they’ll link up automatically.

Parrot’s virtual controls are a bit more complex than the Ollie’s, unsurprising as you now have to think in three dimensions rather than just two. Still, there are three different layouts to choose between and we found the standard mode surprisingly intuitive. You have a virtual joystick which makes the Spider lift, drop and spin left or right, and if you want to move the drone forwards or backwards, you just tap and hold a button and then tilt your phone. We picked up the nuances in no time and managed to deftly swerve the Spider around our office with only the occasional ceiling-based mishap.

Another cool feature of the Spider is the ability to take photos using the built-in camera beneath the drone, with a tap of the on-screen camera button. You can then browse your photos using the app and download to yor phone’s gallery, for keeps. Great news if you like spying on what your coworkers are up to, or fancy seeing what the top of someone’s head looks like.

How good is the camera? Well, we were pretty impressed by the results. Here’s a sample shot…

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