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Glorious Gadgets

They make toys for grown-ups, too; here's a holiday season recap

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There's no doubt about it: We live in wondrous times, with an avalanche of gadgets and gizmos doing things previous generations never thought possible.

And you, dear shopper, are faced with the monumental task of plucking from this avalanche the perfect gift (or gifts) for that special someone. It's a tough proposition, no doubt about it--but it's not impossible. We're brimming with suggestions!

According to physicist and science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

If that's the case, then we're left wondering which sorcerer's spell might be responsible for breathing life into a plastic bunny so that it can read news headlines straight off the Web. Using the Internet, the Nabaztag can also send audio messages to its kin, and if you press a button on its head, it even answers questions about your love life. The most recent generation of the fully customizable bunny costs $189, with a premium designer model going for $300. For more information on this magical rabbit's abilities, visit nabaztag.com.

Speaking of robotic animals, it appears the long wait to get a Pleo is finally over.

Ugobe's lifelike dinosaur, which is sort of like an advanced Tickle-Me Elmo, has reportedly elicited emotions from people that they usually feel for flesh-and-blood pets. The device is chock-full of motors, sensors and processors that allow it to interact with and learn from the environment in ways that some are calling revolutionary.

Unfortunately, the Pleo will probably be hard to come by before Christmas unless you've already preordered it from a retailer. However, direct shipments from Ugobe are scheduled to begin in late January, so maybe this dino can be a gift that Santa delivers late. The Pleo retails for $349; for more information, visit pleoworld.com.

Next up is another device that's been proclaimed "revolutionary"--this time by Mike Elgan, a columnist for Computerworld. Amazon.com has released Kindle, a so-called "e-reader" that allows users to download books and other materials to peruse at their leisure. More than 88,000 books can be bought online, and dozens of international newspapers and more than 250 blogs are accessible using the device, Amazon.com claims. Kindle uses E Ink, a proprietary material that produces black-and-white images that are like everyday ink on paper. It can be yours for $400. For more information, visit the Amazon Web site.

Here's a gadget that makes you wonder how they crammed so many functions into something so small: The Fly Fusion is a handy study tool, the main feature of which is capturing things you write on special paper. Your scribbles can then be uploaded to a computer to be changed into digital text. Students can get help (the Fly Fusion talks!) with algebra equations as they write them, and the pen will even translate written English words into Spanish.

One of the coolest functions is the ability to draw musical instruments or a calculator (among other things), and then use the pen to play music or solve problems. The Fly Fusion costs $79.99. For more information, visit flyworld.com.

What good would a holiday gift guide for techies be without a section on digital cameras? If you're looking for a digital SLR camera for less than $1,000, then check out the Nikon D80. With 10.2 megapixels, high-speed shooting and an incredibly long battery life, you can't go wrong for between $740 and $1,000.

Budding photographers will get a kick out of the rugged Fisher Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera, which, if you're a parent bent on making your child conform to gender norms, comes in both pink and blue for about $70.

The 8-megapixel Kodak Easyshare V803 is a stylishly slim point-and-shoot camera that may lack some of the features of pricier offerings, but makes up for it with bright, highly detailed photos. It costs about $180.

Apple's iPhone opened the floodgates as far as multifunctional cell phones with touch screens go. One of the most impressive gadgets to challenge Apple's baby is LG's Voyager, a phone with a clamshell design that features both a touch screen on the outside and a QWERTY keyboard--with another screen--on the inside. LG has reportedly bumped up the Voyager's music-player functionality when compared to previous models. Voyager also has a 2-megapixel camera and gets the full range of V Cast services through Verizon Wireless (its exclusive carrier), including V Cast Mobile TV. This sleek device costs $299; check Verizon's Web site for more information.

Cell phone makers aren't the only ones playing catch-up to Apple when it comes to innovative design; now, PC makers are getting in on the act. The

Gateway One ZX190 is an all-in-one desktop PC that should appeal to fashion-conscious techies who lust after the iMac, but just aren't willing to make the switch to Apple. It's not the most powerful computing machine out there, but it has more than enough juice to handle everyday tasks--and it sure does look good. The One ZX190 starts at $1,499.99; for more information, visit Gateway's Web site.

Despite an atrocious battery life that can be augmented by purchasing a double-capacity battery for about $200, the OQO Model 02 is a giant step forward when compared to the previous version of this tablet PC. With all kinds of connectivity options (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and EV-DO Rev A mobile broadband), browsing the Internet is an experience that's just as rich as it is on any laptop or desktop--only this device fits comfortably in your hands. The OQO Model 02 starts at $1,299. Visit the OQO Web site for more information.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Pioneer Kuro PDP-5080HD, a 50-inch plasma TV that was a CNET.com editor's pick for holiday gift-giving, beating out TVs made by Sony, Panasonic and Samsung. According to CNET, the Kuro "produces the deepest shade of black--and thus one of the best pictures--we've ever tested." That excellent picture comes at a cost, however: about $2,800. If that's too rich for your blood, then mosey on over to CNET's handy rundown on the best plasma and LCD TVs money can buy.

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