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SFU Surrey elf tests season’s best tech toys

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Terry Lavender, PAMR, 604.268.7408,

December 7, 2006

Toby Donaldson, a computing scientist at SFU Surrey, has been helping Santa’s elves test the techie toys available in stores this season. His picks: 

Moon sand: crumbly as sand until you apply some pressure to it --- and then it feels like dough. Press it into different shapes, and then knead it back into sand.  

Sid Meier's Railroads: Legendary computer game designer Sid Meier has created an economic simulation game where you get to build tracks, buy trains, ship goods, and invest in industries. The graphics are amusingly detailed: zoom in on a train station to see passengers milling about; get close to a cattle ranch, and watch cattle being herded onto your trains. 

Elite Beat Agents: This black-suited government team travels around the world to help people --- by dancing in a really cool way. Played on the Nintendo Dual Screen game system, players try to tap shrinking circles in time to the music. Even simple songs can be vexing at first, and require a little practice. Part of the game's appeal is the over-the-top stories and comic-book style graphics that teach an important life lesson: never underestimate the power of cool dancing.

Other items on Donaldson’s list include RoboRally, a robot board game, Gulo Gulo, a game requiring players to carefully pull colorful wooden eggs from a bowl (without sounding an alarm), and Lego Mindstorms NXT.

The popular new Nintendo Wii system and the Ubuntu Linux operating system (Ubuntu is an African word meaning ‘humanity to others’), a free replacement for Windows, round out his list.