Gadgets Galore! Kids, parent and techno-toys

Gadgets Galore!

Parents today are enjoying a host of high tech gadgets – from walkie talkies, MP3 players and digital cameras to a number of other techno-toys for adults designed to make life a little easier. The following is a brief review of some of the gizmos and gadgets parents (and kids) are using today.

Do your kids’ animated movies have a monopoly on the DVD player or VCR? If you’re tired of never getting to watch the movies you like, consider investing in a portable DVD player. These miniature cousins to the bulky black boxes residing on TV stands today are becoming more and more affordable (about $400 for a 7-inch screen) and may be a practical addition to your current state of gadgetry. Flexible enough to plug into any TV, these players can make any room in your home a great place for the kids to watch their favorite movies (freeing up the “big screen” for you!). And the standard rechargeable lithium ion batteries allow you to take the show on the road. These are great for vacations, airplanes, long car trips (you can plug into your cigarette lighter with an optional AC adapter), and even boats.

For those of you looking for the big picture, flat screen TVs offer amazing picture quality, especially when playing DVDs. A splurge at about $4,500 for a 32-inch widescreen plasma screen, this gadget is one for only the most tenacious collector.

The Walkman is a thing of the past, as MP3 players take over the portable music world. While downloading music from the Internet is illegal, you can rip your favorite songs from your personal CD collection and transfer them from your computer to your MP3 player. Available in many sizes and styles, these players offer a decent value for your dollar.

Continuing in the digital gadget arena is the digital camera. More affordable than ever, digital cameras offer parents an inexpensive option to film developing. Just snap the photo, connect your camera to the computer (often through easy-to-manage USB connections), and within minutes your family’s latest vacation shots are ready to print or be sent to Grandma and Grandpa. I’ve found my digital camera to be a terrific learning tool for my four-year-old daughter. She loves to run around and take pictures, and is thrilled by the instant gratification of being able to see and print them immediately.

For those of you wishing to preserve the sights and sounds of cherished memories, check out The Sharper Image “Talking Pictures” photo album, $29.95. The album can store 24 4″x 6″ photos and 24 digitally recorded messages, and makes a wonderful gift.

Fun Around the Home

A further look at the Sharper Image website offers a load of techno-gadgets many parents would love to own.

The CD Shower Companion Stereo AM/FM and CD-MP3, $199.95, has built-in stereo speakers with aluminum-cone drivers offering brilliantly clear sound rivaling that of much larger, more expensive systems. The Shower companion plays CDs, CD-RWs and CDs encoded with MP3 compressed music files for nearly 12 hours of music on a single disc. In MP3 mode, you can scroll 99 albums, 999 tracks and program up to 100 tracks. For those of you who want the latest news, simply tune the digital AM/FM tuner into one of 30 preset stations. The water-resistant housing is designed for use in the shower as well as tailgates, picnics, hot tubs, poolside and anywhere else. The stereo can hang from the showerhead, mount on the wall or sit on a stand. It runs on batteries or plugs in with an optional adapter.

For Mom, the Sharper Image has the Ionic Conditioning™ Travel Hair Dryer, $39.95. This new dual-voltage dryer leaves hair looking and feeling softer, smoother, and shinier. It has two heat/speed settings and a “cold shot” finishing touch. It comes with a concentrator attachment and travel pouch, and folds for compact portability.

Portable Mini Cycle, $99.95, with adjustable resistance tightens and tones legs and arms anywhere in your home. You can use the cycle while seated — at home or at the office — to strengthen and improve circulation. Or, for additional flexibility, you can put it on a desk or tabletop and operate with your hands to exercise arms. The computer also displays speed, workout time and distance, and calories burned. This portable stationary bike is small and light enough to stow anywhere.

Entertain Me!

Candela Rechargeable Candle Lamps, $69.95, also available through the Sharper Image, allow you to enjoy the beauty and warmth of “candlelight” anytime, anywhere — indoors or out. These innovative lamps offer candlelight without the hazards of burning wicks and wax. The built-in NiCad rechargeable battery provides five hours illumination on a full 16-hour charge.

The Hot+Cold Mini Fridge, $149.95, is perfect for multiple users — at home, work or in the car! This clean, quiet, environmentally friendly unit keeps cold drinks cold — or hot foods hot — with the flip of a switch. It holds four bottles of wine or 15 12-ounce beverage cans, and plugs into a wall outlet or 12V DC dashboard socket (included).

Stay or Play

For those parents looking forward to a restful day in the sun, Brookstone offers the Kelsyus Pool Hammock, $35. Feel the relaxing comfort of a hammock as you float in the pool. The inflatable perimeter gently suspends you in the water; while the mesh inner oval lets you sink ever so slightly into the water, just enough to keep you cool. Plus, there’s a pillow!

For the golf enthusiast, Brookstone offers the Floating Golf Game with Sand Traps, $79. If you thought that playing golf by the pool was going to be easy, think again. This set has a floating green, a chipping mat, and two floating sand traps just to keep you on your toes. Plus you get a target flag, 12 color-coded balls and a mesh bag to hold them. Now, just watch out for the water hazard!

Not a Chore Anymore

Brookstone’s Roomba™ Floor Vacuum, $200, brings housecleaning into the new millennium. Just press a button and the Roomba™ will vacuum any room you want, using intelligent navigation technology, then shuts itself off when the cleaning is done! Meticulously cleans wood, tile, linoleum, and carpet in any size room. The Roomba™ picks up both small and large debris.

For outdoor cooking, Brookstone’s Super Bright Chef’s Fork Thermometer, $30, will let you know when your meat is cooked to perfection. Select your food and how you would like it prepared, and the fork lets you know when it’s ready. Backlit digital readout monitors 16 cooking levels and works for beef, chicken, pork, lamb, veal and turkey. The fork is equipped with a super-bright light to illuminate your cooking area, and can be used inside with your oven and stove top as well.

If you want your grilling to be totally hassle-free, check out the fork’s super cousin, the Grill Alert™ Talking Remote Thermometer, $75, also available through Brookstone.

Step away from the grill and stop ignoring your guests. The wireless belt-clip monitor tells you when your entree is ready from up to 300 feet away. Just insert the stainless steel transmitter probe into the center of the meat, select the type of meat, choose how you want it cooked and then walk away. Let Grill Alert do all the work while you relax and enjoy your newfound freedom. The voice prompt alerts you when your entree is “almost ready” and “ready.” Also great for use inside with your oven or stovetop.