By Todd Bernhard on Fri, 09/30/2011
I've been having a ball with the iCADE, $100 from ThinkGeek.com though I've also seen it at Toys R Us and Best Buy. Originally conceived as an April Fools Day joke, the idea was so attractive that they had it built as a real product... something that happens with remarkable frequency!
So what is iCADE? At the simplest level, it is a Bluetooth keyboard that has a handful of buttons and a joystick that act as input devices for supported apps. But it's more than that... The iCADE is a personal tabletop-size retro-style arcade cabinet, with heavy duty buttons and a joystick. The iCADE connects via bluetooth and requires AA batteries. There is an opening for a 30-pin dock connector cable (not included) so you can charge your iPad (original or iPad 2, or future iPads, presumably!)
In order for the iCADE to be practical, you need apps that support using a Bluetooth keyboard as the physical buttons and joystick directional signals are mapped to the numbers 0 to 9. This is required because, when pairing a Bluetooth keyboard, you will need to enter a numerical PIN code.
Fortunately, the granddaddy of retro arcade games, Atari, has released their greatest hits as a free app, with two games included and a total of 100 games total, available via In-App purchases, with full support the iCADE. Other vendors support the iCADE include Warblade HD, a gorgeous throwback to Galaga. More iCADE compatible apps are listed at toucharcade.com/icade. These games beg for joystick and button mashing controls and the iCADE makes for a perfect companion.
The buzz is that the Apple TV has Bluetooth and it will be activated with iOS 5. This means the iCADE or a similar joystick/button device, without the iPad enclosure, could be even more useful!
As Hannibal said on the A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together!". And I love it when an outrageous idea leaps from an April Fools Day drawing board to the marketplace... Just in time for the holidays!