Cool stuff: Your 2007 holiday gift guide

More than 50 amazing gifts for the technology lovers in your life


Is there a cook or homemaker on your list who always sniffs a package of meat to make sure it's safe? Get them the SensorfreshQ ($90) from Food Quality Sensor International. This small handheld device replaces your nose with four electronic sensors -- you point it at your meat, press the button, and it "inhales" whatever bacteria might be nearby and measures their concentration.

A green light means it's perfectly fresh, a yellow light means eat it soon, and a red light means it's probably not fresh any more. You can find the SensorfreshQ online or at Sur la Table outlets. No more recoiling in disgust at that rotten meat smell!

Price: US$90
Summary: Is that meat fresh? Now you'll never have to guess.
Jake Widman


Most robots walk like, well, robots. The i-SOBOT, which Tomy Corp. calls the world's smallest "high-tech humanoid," can truly walk the walk. Nearly a year after the product was announced, Tomy's karate-chopping, dancing bot finally went on sale in the US last month.

The 6.5-in., US$300 biped boasts capabilities normally found in more expensive kit robots; i-SOBOT's 17 servo motors and gyroscopic sensors allow more realistic movement and balance than has been available in robots in this price range. Using a remote control, the operator can choose from 80 different preprogrammed actions and can store up to 80 command sequences on each of three remote buttons and play the routines later.

I-SOBOT spouts some 200 words and phrases as it goes through its antics, and it uses an embedded microphone with a voice recognition processor to respond to 10 "commands." The commands are designed more to elicit a response than to then execute a specific function.

Commands such as "How are you?" or "Make me laugh" cause i-SOBOT to respond with "appropriate but unpredictable actions," according to Tomy. Preprogrammed "special action" commands play back routines, such as this one, where the i-SOBOT walks and talks as if it's drunk.

Price: US$300-US$350
Summary: The first preassembled robot to achieve "well articulated" walking movement uses 17 servo motors and a gyro sensor to help it maintain balance as it walks, does somersaults, dances and performs other actions. Robert L. Mitchell

3rdSpace Vest

Haptic feedback is all the rage in video games. Xbox and other controllers shake and rattle to simulate impact and augment on-screen action. Haptics dramatically improve realism, even when applied in a small handheld controller.

The 3rdSpace Vest (US$170) from TN Games provides "eight active zones" of rib-crushing haptics. When someone shoots you on the right side, you feel it on your right side. When you get kicked in the chest, you feel that, too. You'll feel every shotgun blast to the torso, every body slam and every frag grenade. You'll even feel light nudges and taps.

The 3rdSpace Vest is bundled with a game written by the company called 3rd Space Incursion, a first-person shooter game. The vest comes in black, camo and hot pink, and is currently for the PC only.

Price: US$169.99 Summary: The 3rdSpace Vest boosts the realism of games by letting you feel the explosions and body impact of on-screen action. Mike Elgan

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