Hi-tech holiday

Still haven’t decided what to buy your loved ones for Christmas? The pulse quickening news is that with only three shopping days to go before the annual festivities, your time is running out.

Still haven’t decided what to buy your loved ones for Christmas?

The pulse-quickening news is that with only three shopping days to go before the annual ‘eat more than you weigh and fall asleep in front of the telly festival’, your time is running out.

But don’t panic. For those of you still waiting for inspiration to strike., we’ve taken a quick look back over the past twelve months and come up with a few last minute Christmas present ideas from the pages of The Engineer.

First up is one for the kids (although not exclusively so). Lego’s latest offering, Mindstorms NXT, is a do-it-yourself robotics kit that enables users to build and program a variety of walking, talking, intelligent robots. Priced at £179, the ‘toy’ will allegedly help anyone from the age of ten upwards build something that moves within around half an hour. A word of warning though – this wasn’t the Engineer’s experience. We took days to get the review copy to do anything vaguely interesting.

So if your recipient is unlikely to have the patience required to turn a thousand lego pieces into a sprout-hurling monster, and you don’t cherish the prospect of crawling around the carpet looking for that vital missing cog, how about the world’s first robot MP3 player? Developed by eccentric roboticist Mark Tilden, you could use Robosapien Media to illustrate to your family the principles of non-linear dynamics. Or you could just listen to it belch.

Moving away from robots, how about the ‘world’s most advanced mouse’ (its developer’s words not ours). Logitech’s £73 MX revolution has at its core the MicroGear Precision Scroll Wheel, an ingeniously designed device that allows users to scroll through endless pages of Excel spreadsheets in a single spin. This is allied to so-called Smart-Shift technology that uses wireless technology to allow the function of the mouse to automatically change depending on the application the user is in.

Finally, the perfect antidote to the bloated post prandial listlessness of Christmas day. The gift of weightlessness – courtesy of a sub orbital space flight aboard the Virgin Galactic Space Ship. The only drawback, apart from the trifling $200,000 ticket price, is the fact that flights aren’t expected to begin until 2009, so your recipient may have to wait a few years before they can redeem their present.

From close of business on Friday 22 December, the Engineer online team will be taking a well earned break and will be back on the 3rd of January. Until then, we’d like to wish a very merry Christmas and a happy new year to all of our readers.

Jon Excell

Features Editor

The Engineer