Come the holiday season, some folks have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. But if you´re like us, your Christmas dreams tend more toward rows of blinking LEDs and the soothing hum and sweet smell of fresh new electronic gadgetry. For inspiration while assembling our ultimate for-geeks, by-geeks gift list,
PopSci consulted a cross-section of sci-tech luminaries, star bloggers and online personalities-everyone from Kevin Rose of digg.com to Fake Steve Jobs to Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia-to see what toys they wanted most this year, in addition to what dreamy gifts they look forward to receiving in the future.
Click here for a look at their answers, from the sensible (Amazon Kindle) to ones that give pause (plasma laser cutter, anyone?). Let´s just hope Santa´s sleigh has a Hemi. -Jon Chase
Contributors to the For-Geeks, By-Geeks Gift Guide:
Click here to launch the gallery.
Founder of Digg.com Geek gift: Amazon’s Kindle is an amazing device. Because e-paper reflects light like traditional paper, there is no eyestrain. It also comes with built-in, free high-speed Internet access so you can download books from anywhere on the go. It’s a bit pricey, but for a bookworm it’s a pretty cool device. Ultimate invention: Wireless power. I read about a recent experiment at MIT that transferred power over a two-meter distance, powering a 60-watt lightbulb. Imagine a city blanketed in wireless power–I’d be the first to toss my laptop’s brick power adapter.
Author, inventor and philosopher Geek gift: A Nokia N82 phone, which has just about everything from GPS to a five-megapixel camera with good lenses and a real xenon flash. **Ultimate invention: **Virtual displays using devices in our eyeglasses that beam images directly to the retina. Prototypes of these already exist. So my vision of computing and communicating in the future includes retina-mounted devices that can create stationary virtual displays even as we move our heads, and full-immersion visual-auditory virtual reality and augmented real reality. We’ll be online all the time with very high-bandwidth wireless communication. Computing and communication will be a self-organizing mesh of nodes, so if you need a million computers for a second, it will be available to you. We’ll live in a blend of real and virtual reality, and it won’t always be clear where one stops and the other begins.
Senior editor, MAKE**** magazine; contributing editor, Popular Science Geek gift: A Spectrum Z510, the top-end 3-D printer from Z Corp. It takes 3-D CAD models and turns them into 24-bit color 3-D objects. It can crank out 10x14x8-inch objects. Ultimate invention: A home-based CERN Large Hadron Collider. You can do a lot in science, but anything besides physics seems like stamp collecting to me. I’d like to have this at home so I can find the Higgs boson from the comfort of my small New York City apartment.
Internet filmmaker and star of wherethehellismatt.com Geek gift: Rock Band [by Harmonix for Xbox 360 or PS3]. I’ve never been very good at playing music, but I’ve always been good at playing videogames. Rock Band gives me the thrill of performing with other people in front of an audience. Ultimate invention: A pocket device with voice recognition that will instantly translate the words it hears in any language. I’m not asking for a flawless universal translator. I just want to know what the cab driver is saying about me.
Founder of Atari (and Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza) Geek gift: A subscription to Audible.com. I love books on tape, and my iPod Nano makes it so easy. Ultimate invention: A plasma laser cutter, so I can quickly build prototypes and be the mad scientist that I am.
Tech journalist, co-editor of BoingBoing.net Geek gift: I´m kind of slobbering over the new Marantz PMD-620, a flash-based audio recorder. I’ve been using the PMD-660 to record all of my segments for NPR News for a while and loved the quality and stability, but it’s too bulky. This new one’s lighter. Ultimate invention: Something I can wave at my laptop to shrink the number of e-mails in my inbox. I probably receive between 1,000 and 1,500 total e-mails a day.
Jonathan Coulton Musician; contributing troubadour, Popular Science
Geek gift: I’ve been positively giddy about the Tenori-on [a digital musical instrument in handheld tablet form] since I saw the demo online. As a musician, I never get that deep into technique-I love learning to play instruments just a tiny little bit and then making music with them as best I can. This seems to be exactly what the Tenori-on is designed for, and it looks really fun. Just look at all those pretty lights! Ultimate invention: The iPhone-from a couple years in the future. I love the phone, but I need it to be on a decent 3G [high-speed data] network with seamless DUN [dial-up networking, for extending Internet access to a laptop]. I don’t even care if there’s still no copy-and-paste. I just want to get my PowerBook online without having to think about it and curse the names of certain evil corporations. Also, if it’s not too much to ask, can it have a head-up display and flawless voice recognition, please?
Musician and producer/director of This Spartan Life **Geek gift: **The Lemur control surface for audio and media applications. This device is a dream piece of gear for media artists longing for a customizable graphical user interface that affords loads of possibilities for live performance and composition. Gimme gimme gimme! Ultimate invention: A programmable USB Game Boy cartridge. Some might think it painfully retro, but believe me, to Chiptune musicians (people who make music using vintage game gear), this would be a godsend. It would allow musicians who use the Game Boy as a music workstation to make backup copies of their music. Jose Torres at 8bitcollective.org has developed a prototype and hopes to release it soon. Not soon enough!
How 2.0 Blogger/Principal builder for Popular Science Geek gift: An Apple iPhone. Yes, I probably should wait until next year’s souped-up 3G model, but I find that carrying one device instead of four is good economy for my sagging shoulder. Ultimate invention: Some sort of magic ray that would instantly, globally and pervasively eliminate all weapons from this planet. It is way too easy to hurt someone in this world but seemingly impossible to tolerate, respect, and love your fellow human. Merry Christmas.
Founder of Wikipedia Geek gift: A hybrid electric Mini Cooper. I saw that a company built a prototype and that it’s going to, or may already have, put them into production, though it’ll be incredibly expensive. Each wheel is powered independently by an electric motor, and it has a lot of stuff to geek out about. Ultimate invention: A cellphone that actually works! I… [Editor’s note: His call dropped mid-sentence, and he was unreachable afterward. No joke!]
Videoblogger and founder of Oxmour Entertainment Inc. Geek gift: An Amazon Kindle. I waste a lot of paper reading hard copies of magazines, and I like the idea of instantly downloadable books. Mom, I hope this comes through in your Google Alerts-hint, hint… Ultimate invention: I would go ballistic over a Kindle that had every publication in the world available for download, as well as an easy way to share favorites with friends. Oh, and a Bicentennial Man. One of those, please.
Editor in chief of MAKE**** magazine and co-editor of BoingBoing.net Geek gift: A Garmin nvi 350 3.5-inch portable GPS navigator. My wife’s car has built-in navigation, and I have grown so dependent that when I get into my car, I feel lost without it (and often end up that way). Ultimate invention: The rumored flash-based portable Mac with an 8- or 10-inch screen. I like traveling as light as possible, and this thing would lighten my load considerably.
Author of The Happiest Days of Our Lives ****and_ Just a Geek_ Geek gift: A top-of-the-line GPS navigation unit for my car. I’ve been a geocacher since 2001, and my whole life I’ve been the guy with the map when we take road trips or go hiking. Ultimate invention: Municipal Wi-Fi, an Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device 04, and an eBook reader that’s as convenient and unrestricted as the book it’s replacing. I was hoping that Amazon would get the Kindle right, and they didn’t come close.
Author of **The 4-Hour Workweek****** Geek gift: A Hypoxico Deluxe Bed Tent, which is an airtight tent put over your bed to simulate high altitude. By decreasing oxygen intake to mirror 12,000 feet, for example, one can increase red blood cell count and increase endurance for sports training. Fun. Ultimate invention: A small handheld device that samples blood and provides data like complete metabolic panel (insulin, cholesterol, etc.) and hormonal levels (free testosterone, estradiol, etc.). I’m a compulsive trender with blood results and find it invaluable observing real health changes and optimizing behavior and diet accordingly.
a.k.a. Fake Steve Jobs Geek gift: A really high-end music server with a supercool touchscreen controller. I’m tired of using Squeezebox to pull music from a Mac. Also, I want an iPhone, but I want someone else to pay for it. Ultimate invention: One of those Microsoft Surface tables with the touch interface. If that could drive my music server, I’d be incredibly psyched.