High-tech gadgets offer plenty for gifts

Dec 08, 2011 By Stanley A. Miller II

Every year gadgets and their accessories are the hot gifts to give and get.

And shoppers are going to spend a record amount on electronics gifts this holiday. In fact, according to the , buyers are going to blow an all-time-high average of $246 on electronics gifts, up 6 percent from last year, based on its most recent study released this fall.

The trade group's 18th annual holiday buying study found that overall spending will increase, too, rising 3 percent to an average of $769. So if the numbers are true, shoppers are hot for high-tech, and I've assembled a list of gadgety goodness for stuffing those stockings.

- iZON remote room monitor: Pet cams. Nanny cams. Granny cams. There are so many reasonable reasons why you might want to peek over the Internet into a room at home. The iZON remote room monitor streams live video and audio over your home-wireless network to an app on your iPhone, or Wi-Fi connected iPod Touch. This adjustable camera can watch and listen for action in a room and send a push-notification alert if there is activity. It can also automatically record video and upload the feed to a YouTube account. It costs $129.95 at steminnovation.com.

- V-MODA M-80: Not all are created equally, and the Crossfade M-80 set from V-Moda stand out in style, performance and price. In addition to offering high-end acoustics, natural noise isolation and a stunning, sexy design, these headphones are durable and comfortable. The M-80s are made of strong, high-end, boutique materials, including a , microfiber suede memory-foam cushions and Kevlar-reinforced microphone cables. Where these headphones truly amaze, however, is the rich sound they pump through your skull. Quality, admittedly, comes at a pretty stiff price: $229 at v-moda.com and other retailers, including Radio Shack.

- DeskPets TankBot: Robots are still not cheap or effective enough to serve all our needs, but the DeskPets TankBot will patrol your home or office, find its way through obstacles and obey the commands you send it through an Apple iOS or Android device. This smart toy uses infrared sensors to roll its way around autonomously, and an included remote control plugs into the headphone jack of your mobile device for direct driving. Tankbots come in a variety of colors and cost $24.99 at Radio Shack, Toys 'R' Us and mydeskpets.com.

- Scosche freeKEY: Tablets are allegedly supposed to fill the tiny need-gap between laptops and smartphones. Yet it appears the public is resolved to use tablets as laptops, and demand for wireless keyboards has correspondingly shot through the roof. The freeKEY is a flexible, water-resistant keyboard from Scosche that wirelessly connects to Apple or Android , as well as Windows and Mac computers using Bluetooth. Its battery lasts for 60 hours before requiring recharging, and the freeKEY's flexible silicone construction lets it roll up and be easily stuffed inside a backpack or purse. It costs $59.99 at scosche.com , Wal-Mart and Amazon.

- iGrill: Some grilling aficionados scoff at the idea of thermometers. And for those willing to risk an underdone or overcooked chicken, good luck with that. The iGrill Bluetooth meat thermometer keeps high-tech tabs on grillables, beaming the internal temperature of whatever it's stuck into to an app on an , iPad and iPod Touch. Winter grilling often requires the pit master to shiver a bit, but the iGrill's range of about 200 feet will let the cook monitor the grill warmly and remotely, at least for a time. It costs $99 at igrillinc.com and Apple Stores.

- Bracketron Style-iT: Touch screen technology is quickly changing the way people use their electronics. The only problem is the messy smudges rubbing off even the most delicately manicured hands. The Style-iT offers a solution to this oily issue, as well as packing a smooth-writing ballpoint pen in one brightly polished package. The stylus works for sketching, writing or other activities that require a bit more fine manipulation on a touch-screen tablet. And it's nice for taking notes in meetings whether you are using a tablet or paper, and it comes in several colors. Available for $24.95 at Bracketron.com.

- Bheestie bag: The first few moments after a phone or some other electronic device gets soaked are critical. Many people try to power up their waterlogged gadget, often dooming it for good. The better solution is to towel it off, take the battery out if you can and then pop it into a Bheestie bag. This plastic sack is full of a desiccant that absorbs the moisture and gives the best chance of saving your personal technology. Anyone who owns a pool or who has ever accidentally dropped a mobile phone into a toilet will be glad to get this gift, which costs about $20 at bheestie.com and retailers like REI and Amazon.

- Wahoo Run/Gym Pack: No gadget will get you in shape, but the run-gym pack from Wahoo Fitness can help. This bundle includes a heart-rate belt and a dongle that links into an iDevice's dock porting port. The kit comes with a free app but also works with more than 100 fitness apps, as well as other heart-rate monitoring devices using the industry standard ANT+ sensors. Whatever software and system you decide to use, the pack helps you accurately track heart rate, pace, distance, location and calories burned. This high-tech healthy-living helper costs $119.99 to $129.99 at wahoofitness.com, Amazon and Best Buy.

- X-Mini II: Big sound can come in small packages, and this diminutive portable speaker enjoys a very low profile. The X-Mini's collapsible, accordionlike design makes it even smaller for storage, and several speakers can be daisy-chained for additional effect. It plugs into any standard 3.5mm audio jack; comes in almost a dozen colors; and costs $49.90 at x-mini.com.

- L'Atelier du Vin Wine Partner: Wine is fine - until you are accused of handing out meager pours of vino. The Wine Partner lets imbibers track their alcohol consumption, measuring drinking in number of drinks, in centiliters and in kilocalories over the course of a meal, day or week. It's certainly a fun, curious conversation piece for tastings, and it costs about $75 at Amazon.

Explore further: Big new iPhone brings Apple more profit

More information: Stanley A. Miller II covers personal technology for the Journal Sentinel.

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