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10 holiday gift ideas for alpha geeks (photos)

Trendsetters and tech hipsters balk at run-of-the-mill gifts. Surprise them this season with one of these distinct gadgets.
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By Chris Jablonski, Inactive on
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1 of 10 Chris Jablonski/ZDNet

"Alpha Geeks" are techies who don't settle for the world as it is today. They experiment and push the boundaries of tech to create "magic." Just ask Tim O'Reilly: he evangelized the phrase.  Gift giving for this finicky group means tactful selection, so look for products that blend design, functionality and some sort of "x-factor"...be it first-to-market, retro, or just plain awesome.

See also: Holiday gifts for alpha geeks: Part 2 (photos)

The stylish I'm Watch from Italian firm Blue Sky runs on Android and is available in a variety of colors. There are also a few pricey high-end gold and titanium models. The watch connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and comes with 64MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. There’s also a headphone jack for you to listen to music. I'm Watches will start shipping at the end of January 2012. Image credit: Blue Sky

Price: Starting at $413 (299 Euro)

Availability: Preorders available/ Ship date Jan 30, 2012

Learn more: http://www.imshop.it/

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Hailing from London, Suck UK is an award-winning product design company pumping out gifts with humor and style. Made from recycled paper and card materials, the Cardboard Radio includes one audio input cable and four AA batteries. A DC power adapter can also power the minimalist radio, but it is not included. Image credit: Suck UK

Availability: Now

Price: $40 (£25)

Learn more: http://www.suck.uk.com

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LARK is a silent "un-alarm" clock and sleep sensor system. Invented by a sleep deprived MIT grad school student, LARK includes a wristband that gently nudges you awake leaving your lucky partner to sleep in, undisturbed. It also includes a sensor that tracks your sleeping patterns which are displayed on a mobile app on your iPhone or an online dashboard. Image credit: Engadget 

Availability: Now

Price: $99 / $159 (Pro)

Learn more: https://www.lark.com

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Olly is the "web connected smelly robot." It takes services on the Internet, like tweets, and delivers their pings as smells. Is your train running late? Olly will let your nose know about it. The device has a removable tray that you can fill with any smell you like, such as an essential oil, slice of fruit, or perfume. Olly was developed by Mint Foundry, a graduate design lab at Mint Digital dedicated to exploring the potential of web-connected objects. Image credit: Foundry, Mint Digital

Availability: N/A

Price: N/A

Learn more: http://ollyfactory.com/

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Fill your house with sound in style with these Scandinavian-inspired speakers, which are made of cashmere, chrome, and wood. Equipped with AirPlay, all you need is iTunes to play your favorite tracks wirelessly from your devices. Once you pick a spot for your omni-directional speaker (you need just one), the Libratone App allows you to automatically adjust the sound to fit your room. Image credit: Cult of Mac

Availability: Now

Price: Live - $699, Lounge - $1,399

Learn more: http://www.libratone.com/

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Alpha Geeks share a lot in common with electronic hobbyists, so they also need the tools of the trade. Since its launch in 2006, Arduino has been a hit with artists, designers, and hobbyists. Ok, so what is it? It's an open source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and free software. The board can be bought or built by hand. It works by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. For example, you can use it to do the kind of Christmas light programming that gets your home on the local news. Image credit: Arduino

Availability: Now

Price: $25 - $29.99

Learn more: http://arduino.cc/en/

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A typical laundry machine is bulky and weighs about 175 pounds. Throw in a dryer and there is little wonder why most homes have a room dedicated to clothing maintenance. The Laundry POD changes the game. First of all, it costs nothing to operate and requires no electricity. Second, it can fit under your sink and is portable enough to take on trips, boats, and your nearest Occupy Wall Street encampment.  The hand-operated machine comes in three colors: white, green and grey. Image credit: StoreBound  

Availability: Now

Price: $99.95

Learn more: http://www.thelaundrypod.com

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The Solio Bolt is the company's update to its classic three-panel solar charger. The Bolt uses a USB connection and could charge a smartphone from zero to full in less than three hours. It contains two solar panels to power the Bolt's internal Li-Poly battery using the power of the sun. You can prop up the panels with a pencil, which can be inserted into the center, making the device act like a sun dial. When the sun goes down switch to the MicroUSB port to re-charge the Bolt's battery in 4.5 hours. Image crediit: Better Energy Systems INC

Availability: Now

Price: $70

Learn more: http://www.solio.com

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Among the most anticipated products in the personal health monitoring market, the E39 compression shirt tracks the body’s biometric signals and transmits this data to a computer for evaluation by athletes, trainers and coaches. Electronic touch points throughout the E39 shirt communicate with a device in the front of the shirt called the Bug, which holds all of the athlete’s performance data. The shirt is powered by Zephyr technology, utilizing the same innovation employed by the US Special Forces. Image credit: Under Armour, Inc.

Availability: 2012

Price: N/A

Learn more: http://www.underarmour.com

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One of the highlights of being a Generation X kid was Big Trak, a programmable 6-wheeled tank that ruled the playroom with its blue "photo beam" and jarring audio pulses (see video). Originally manufactured by Milton Bradley, the toy was discontinued for years until a British company called Zeon announced a reissue last year. Whether or not the new version recreates the magic of the original is debatable. Image credit: Zeon Tech

Availability: Now

Price:  $56 (£34.99)

Learn more: http://www.zeonltd.co.uk/bigtrak/

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