Holiday Gear Sneak Peek

Tech firms got a jump on the holidays this week in New York where they showed off cool new tech toys they hope will be big hits with gift givers. Here are some of the product highlights from the event sponsored by ShowStoppers.

New and Improved Slacker Portable Device

Love streaming music so much you wish you could take it with you? If you’re a streaming music fan you can. The Slacker G2 is a portable device that prefetches your personalized streaming music playlists and puts them on a portable player so you can take your streaming music with you wherever you go (no Net connections needed). Slacker is selling a $200, 25-station 4GB model and a $249, 40-station 8GB model. Downloading and listening to streams is free, but ad-supported. The premium ad-free service costs $10 a month.

Keyless Wi-Fi Deadbolt

Nothing captures the warmth of the holidays like a new deadbolt lock for your spouse or loved one, right? Well this Schlage Link locking system is Wi-Fi-enabled and might just be the key to a geek’s heart. This lock lets you create up to 19 different four-digit codes to program your door. The Schlage Link also allows for password-protected remote access via the Web for ultimate door control. You can control the time, date, and frequency a visitor can use their code. You can also configure the lock to e-mail or text-message you when someone uses a passcode. The hardware will cost you $300; you'll also have to pay $13 a month to subscribe to the Schlage Web service for remote access to your lock.

In-Car Wi-Fi

Traveling during the holidays may never be the same (or as peaceful) with AutoNet Mobile, a wireless Internet service for your car. Great for long road trips, this device, which can be mounted almost anywhere in the car--in the trunk or under the seat, say--lets passengers go Web surfing, do instant messaging, or play on their PSPs. The hardware costs $500 and comes with a monthly charge of $29. The Wi-Fi range is about 100 feet--just enough for tailgating freeloaders.

A Remote-Access Security Cam That's Easy to Use

Remote security cameras can be expensive and hard to set up--never mind trying to configure them for remote access. Networking experts at D-Link think they have made remote surveillance a snap with a $500 Internet Surveillance Starter Kit (DHA-390). With the kit you can monitor any room in your house from any Net-connected PC via D-Link's D-Life Web service that facilitates the remote access. One reason the DHA-390 is so simple to use, the company says, is that it uses power-line networking--which eliminates the need for snaking network cables across your home.

This E-Bike Helps You Save Gas and Sweat

Give the gift of green this holiday with Schwinn's Tailwind eBike, or electric bike. Schwinn says this bike is the fastest-charging bike of its kind, able to recharge completely within a half hour, versus the 4 hours required for competitors. The $3200 bike weighs in at 38 pounds and is officially a pedal-assist bike, meaning the electric motor kicks in only when the user is pedaling. According to company reps, the bike is good for 20 to 30 miles of putting around between charges. The secret sauce is the battery technology, made by Toshiba, called SCiB (Super Charge ion Battery). The battery is rated for between 2000 to 5000 charges, according to Schwinn. It should be availabile in early 2009.

GPS Does Double Duty as Rear-View Cam

Nextar is introducing a dashboard-mountable GPS unit, the I4-BC Navigation System, that doubles as a rear-view camera for your car, so you can avoid mishaps when backing up. The GPS unit will run you $260; bundled with it is a camera that you attach to your rear license plate. The cam connects wirelessly to the GPS unit and is powered by an adapter that hooks to the light that illuminates your car's license plate.

Attack of the Night-Vision Borg

It's a good thing toymaker Jakks Pacific's $80 EyeClops BioniCam night-vision goggles are made for wearing in the dark, because if you're caught wearing them in the light of day someone might mistake you for a Borg. Jakks Pacific claims these goggles allow you to see for up to 50 feet under pitch-black conditions thanks to both infrared and LED sensors mounted on top of the goggles. The downside is these goggles only allow for one eye (the left) to see.

Wii-Remote Knockoff? Cool Console Games

The Nintendo Wii game console can be notoriously hard to find during the holiday season. One way to get in on some Wii Remote action games without having to fight to buy a Wii is to purchase Jakks Pacific's UltiMotion Swing Zone ($75), a game console system that uses the same type of accelerometer and optical sensor technology that the Wii Remote uses. UltiMotion Swing Zone comes with baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, and football games.

Remote Control Bar-Bot (or Beer-Bot?)

My guess is that the demographic of lazy beer drinkers is pretty high, increasing the odds that InterActive Toy Concepts might have an instant customer base with its R/C Cooler. This $70 beer-bot is a motorized collapsible drink cooler that you direct with a remote control. Eat your heart out, Homer Simpson.

Robotic Fly on the Wall

With InterActive Toy Concepts' (ITC) MAV Ornithopter ($60) you can be that fly on the wall you've always said you wanted to be. The only catch: You can’t see or hear. The MAV Ornithopter is a thumb-sized indoor flying gizmo with a 5-inch wingspan and a 1-by-3.5-inch body. ITC says that you’ll be able to get 7 minutes of flying time between charges and that the gadget takes only 5 minutes to juice.

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