Tech Toys for Christmas Giving

November 27, 2003, vol. 28, no. 7
By Terry Lavender

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If your children are nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of robots dancing in their heads, the tech-savvy Santa's helpers at the Surrey campus can help you choose the appropriate gift.

For example, there's the Lego Mindstorm Robotics Invention System. Faculty at the school of interactive arts and technology have been using Mindstorm to introduce undergraduate and high school students to programming fundamentals.

Perfect for older children (or adults), Mindstorm can be used to build creatures capable of roaming around, interacting with other robots or spooking the cat.

Joseph Matthew, a lecturer in the school, wants Santa to bring him an NEC LT 240K DLP projector. Joseph says this small projector with the mundane name is “hands down the best projector you can buy under $3000.” You can use it to watch television (with an image equivalent to a 200” television) or play games. And the best part, he says, is that “you can justify it as a business necessity. I told my significant other that I needed it for business presentations and how could she argue with that?“

Gordon Pritchard manages the research labs at the Surrey campus. His dream gift this year is a StereoGraphics SynthaGram stereo 3d display that doesn't need glasses. The display ranges in price from $4000 to $18,000 U.S. depending on the size. “One of these for me please, Santa!” Gordon says.

The Game Boy Advance SP is on Stephanie Chu's wish list. The learning design coordinator with the eLearning Innovation Centre (eLINC) says the latest version of Nintendo's Game Boy is “a sturdy little system for playing a variety of richly detailed games.” It can also link with the GameCube and other Game Boy Advances for multi-player games.

Stephanie's eLINC colleague Baljeet Dhaliwal, suggests the Palm In-Car GPS Solution, a global positioning system that works with most of the newer Palm handheld models. It includes mapping software that highlights current position and gives turn-by-turn directions. With one of these in his sleigh, Santa wouldn't need Rudolph's red nose to guide him anymore.

And if you're overwhelmed by all the high-tech choices, Toby Donaldson, an assistant professor of mathematics, has some suggestions. Toby's first choice is The Complete Far Side Collection (“Sure, it weighs 18 pounds, but it's got every single Far Side cartoon..) Another possibility is a subscription to Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates, “a massively-multiplayer online game where you get to be a pirate. The unusual part is that all the action takes place in Tetris-like puzzle games. Sailing your ship, fighting other pirates, and engaging in drinking contests involve playing different versions of Tetris.”

Toby also likes Anker Blocks, which are stone-building blocks for creating realistic buildings and the Brain String, a Rubik's Cube offshoot where you have to switch outside button colors without knotting the string on the inside.

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