THIS IS certainly a magical time of year for many. And Gizmo Guy hopes to add to the excitement, with these last-minute gift suggestions celebrating the wonders of modern technology.
It's a 3-D Christmas!
Purchased a 3-D-ready HDTV this holiday season or last? Santa's bag is bulging with effects-rich 3-D (and 2-D-compatible) Blu-ray movie titles to make that high-tech TV strut its stuff. A few recommendations:
"Men In Black 3" (Sony) goes back to and from the future with much visual funny business. Philly guy Will Smith also is representing (more seriously) in the new 3-D conversion of "I, Robot," (Fox), a snazzy piece of sci-fi filmmaking only modestly improved with extra-depth effects.
Better you should give Fox moola for the long-awaited general release of James Cameron's 3-D landmark "Avatar," previously available only to Panasonic 3-D set buyers.
Seat-belt use is highly recommended when watching "The Amazing Spider-Man" (Sony) and "The Avengers" (Paramount) in 3-D. Superheroes rule!
And for the music buffs, the 3-D/2-D renderings of Pat Metheny, "The Orchestrion Project" (Eagle Rock) offer high-flying, bird's-eye views and bristling impressions of this jazz innovator's tricked-up, one-man and many-robotic instruments band.
We've also spotted a boom in newly refined Blu-ray editions of classics ripe for library-building. Universal has issued a bunch to honor its 100th anniversary, including a tuned-up "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," "Jaws," "Sixteen Candles," "Harvey" and "My Man Godfrey."
Disney has raided the vaults for deluxe, Blu-ray editions of "Cinderella," "Lady and the Tramp," "Pete's Dragon" and "The Aristocats."
We're loving this season's extra-colorful cases for the iPhone 5 and other mobile phones, like the two-tone Trident Touch ($22.22, Walmart) or diverse Speck CandyShell lineups ($26-$35, Sears and Target). The CandyShell Grip has hard-core gamers and tweeters in mind with textured zones to prevent it from slipping out of your hand, plus dual-layer shock protection.
The retro Native Union Pop Phone Handset for mobile phones, Voice-Over-Internet-linked computer or tablet is more comfortable to grip for extended calls and eliminates "99 percent of absorbed phone radiation," it's claimed ($29.95 at shopkitson.com, $39.95 at zumiez.com).
The Bluetooth radio transmission circuitry in most tablets, mobile phones and computers makes it easy to turn a device into a personal radio station. But you also need speakers.
Among the merriest is the tight-sounding iHome iP76 Glowtunes Wireless 4 speaker Tower Speaker System ($199.99, ihomeaudio.com). This slim tower glows and changes color, too. Color it green for a surrogate Christmas tree!
Any sound system with an audio input jack can be made "Bluetooth music-streaming-ready" with a tiny Tivoli Audio BluCon ($149 at HiFi House) or Kanex AirBlue Bluetooth Receiver ($30.20 at Amazon.com).
With a Wi-Fi wireless Internet connection, the fine-sounding Logitech UE Smart Radio ($179.99, Best Buy) delivers thousands of commercial-free radio stations plus subscription services and music from the home computer.
Gotta tout another Logitech sweetie, the clip-on Tablet Speaker for iPad and any tablet with a headphone jack. Originally selling for $40, it's an amazing deal from Amazon at $16.99.
Home automation, done easy
A Belkin WeMo Switch ($49.95) enables remote monitoring and control of an appliance or lamp via iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. No monthly fees!
Another welcome addition is the D-Link Amplifi Wi-Fi Booster with SmartBeam Technology ($105, TigerDirect.
The Vicks Behind Ear Gentle Touch Thermometer (about $30 at Walmart, Target) takes a sick tyke's temperature in a second.
Pack that old iPod Touch or iPhone safely inside the drool-proof, shock-resistant Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Aptivity Case ($16.99, toysrus.com) so kids as young as 6 months can have fun with the companion apps, rattle beads on the easy grip handles and shiny mirror on back.
Create glowing, multicolor, DIY animated drawings that look like electronic signage with the spherical Crayola Digital Light Designer ($39.99, target.com). Intended for the 6-plus set, but we know a creative, almost-3-year-old who loves it.
The Wonderbook Book of Spells game software/hardware package (Sony, about $80 in bundle form) for the PlayStation 3 was dreamed up by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. It deploys a PS3 Move Motion Controller as a magic wand and a PlayStation Eye camera for Augmented Reality interaction.
Young 'uns are also quite taken this season with the tradable toy-character-enhanced sequel Skylanders Giants (Activision, about $75) and two body-english-activated Xbox 360 with Kinect-customized games, Power Rangers Super Samurai (Bandai, $40) and Marvel Avengers: Battle For Earth (Ubisoft, $50.)
Nearly everything on the new, dual-screen Wii U game system has special charms and challenges, from the brain-teasing Scribblenauts Unlimited (Warner Bros., $50) to cartoony, role-playing Epic Mickey 2: The Power of 2 (Disney, $50.)
The more mature action gamers on your shopping list deserve the top-rated, multi-platform adventures Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft), Mass Effect 3 (Electronic Arts), Call of Duty Black Ops II (Activision), Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft) and Halo 4 (343/Microsoft). All are in the $50 range.
Old school/new school
Lifelong radio devotee Bob Crane loves designing portable radios that look old but are crammed with modern touches, like the C. Crane CC Pocket AM/FM/Weather Radio ($59.95 at ccrane.com). Comes with cute wood-encased earphones, too.
What did you say?
Save the hearing of a kid who cranks their music way too loud with supercute and sturdy iFrogz Animatone headphones. The volume won't rise louder than 85 DB. ($24.99, zagg.com).
For the grown-up who should know better, ClearSounds Smart Sound Earbuds reverse the speaker drivers to reduce pressure on the ear drums ($44.95 at smithgear.com).
The new breed of battery-powered corkscrews like the Brookstone Automatic Wine Opener are useful for parties when you're opening lots more than one bottle ($19.99, Bed Bath and Beyond).
If you like to vary room lighting with a dimmer, try a new-generation model like the Lutron Credenza CFL/LED Light Dimmer for table lamps ($16.99, lampsplus.com). Works on LED, incandescent and halogen bulbs.