Cool Stuff: Your 2006 Holiday Gift Guide

All the best technology gifts to give (and get) this holiday season

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Weird and Wacky

Enough with the serious presents; these gifts just wanna have fun.

Most obnoxious iPod gear: iKaraoke

The iKaraoke from Griffin Technology is a magic microphone that turns your iPod into a karaoke bar -- just add alcohol. IKaraoke ($50) plays music from your existing collection, with the lead vocals faded out, through your home stereo system.

Buttons on the microphone let you pause, scan, temporarily allow the original vocals or improve the sound with reverb -- the iKaraoke does it all. The removal of the vocals isn't perfect, but close enough. Connect it to your stereo with the included cable via its wireless FM-radio option. It works with the Apple iPod 4G, 5G, Mini and Nano.

Sing your heart out with the iKaraoke microphone. Courtesy of Griffin Technology.
Sing your heart out with the iKaraoke microphone. Courtesy of Griffin Technology.

While the iKaraoke wasn't yet available for purchase at press time, a Griffin representative assured us that it will be available at your local Apple Store or major electronics retailer in mid-December. (product details)

—Mike Elgan

Best wacky USB drives: Mimobots

There are few things that satisfy a tech geek's fetish for the sublimely odd than USB flash drives in funny shapes. Ask and ye shall receive: Mimoco has a line of flash drives called Mimobots that are modeled after pop icons and other, less identifiable characters. A single USB drive form factor (teddy-bearish in shape) is used to create a variety of Mimobots, whose heads pop off to reveal a USB 2.0 connector.

The Star Wars series includes Chewbacca, Darth Vader and an Imperial Stormtrooper. There's also a 1950s series, complete with Elvis and Betty Lou (think of the Pink Ladies from Grease), an artist series (shown below), and a line of core Mimobots.

Sing your heart out with the iKaraoke microphone. Courtesy of Griffin Technology.
A star from the Mimobot artist series. Courtesy of Mimoco.

The limited edition Mimobot drives -- only 3,500 units will be made -- come in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB capacities and range in price from $80 to $170. The drives will ship with bonus material, including Star Wars wallpaper, videos and sound bites. (product details)

Honorable mention: Think food is art? How about technology? Well, SolidAlliance has created an entire line of SushiDisk flash drives that resemble everything from sashimi to a California roll. The flash drives cost from $99 to $269, but they come with only 128MB to 1GB of memory. Still, there's nothing like a piece of raw tuna hanging from your USB port to draw attention. (product details)

—Lucas Mearian

Coolest tech toy: Spy Video Car

Remote-controlled toy cars have been around for decades, but none like this one. The Wild Planet Spy Video Car's on-car video camera and head-mounted LCD viewer let you see the action from the car's point of view. You don't even need to see the car to control it -- you can navigate with the camera, as shown in the car's TV ad.

What could be cooler than a remote-control car with a spy camera? Courtesy of Wild Planet.

What could be cooler than a remote-control car with a spy camera?

Courtesy of Wild Planet.

The car is quiet, so you can sneak up on people and spy on them. Incredibly, it has infrared night vision, which doesn't emit any visible light to tip off your victim. Adjust the camera's angle to look up, straight ahead or anywhere you like. The light, handheld remote-control unit controls the car from up to 75 feet away.

The Spy Video Car uses 12 AA batteries and goes for $140 direct from Wild Planet, but it's available at Target and Toys R Us for $99 during the month of December. It's the perfect gift for the little spy on your holiday list. (product details)

—Mike Elgan

Most useful USB-powered gadget: USB Roll-Up Piano

Brando's USB Roll-Up Piano plugs into your PC, turning it into an electronic piano and synthesizer. The 49-key piano keyboard is 29 in. by 7 in., plus a control unit that's 8.5 by 3.5 by 1.25 in. Roll it up and stuff it in your pocket. Let's see you do that with a Steinway.

Unroll the USB piano keyboard, plug it in, and play -- no batteries required. Courtesy of Bravo.
Unroll the USB piano keyboard, plug it in, and play -- no batteries required. Courtesy of Bravo.

The $46 piano features 136 instruments (eight of them percussion), six tones, 100 prerecorded rhythms, a built-in metronome and even tone effects such as vibrato and portamento. You can record what you play and use the piano software's learning mode to practice. All programming and sounds are activated with the Windows XP-only software. Power comes through the USB cable -- no batteries required. (product details)

—Mike Elgan

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