ZDNet UK's Christmas tech wish list

ZDNet UK's reporters and editors present their Christmas wish lists for 2011. What gizmos, gadgets and innovations do they want to find under the Christmas tree?
By Staff on
1 of 9 Panasonic

Mr Evolta image

Production editor Shannon Doubleday: During winter, I wake up in the morning, lace up my running shoes, walk out the door and immediately wish I'd stayed in bed. It's just me against the cold wind, the splattering rain and bizarre London smells. But imagine if, under the Christmas tree, was a running buddy with seemingly unending energy. He might not be much of a chatty pavement pounder, but I'd run with Mr Evolta in any conditions.

The robot — created for Panasonic by inventor Tomotaka Takahashi to show off the company's household batteries — may only be nine percent of my height, but based on his previous accomplishments, I'm sure he'd provide 100 percent of the inspiration. This AA-driven wonder finished a 500km trek from Tokyo to Kyoto in just two over months, adding it to his list of accomplishments, which includes scaling the Grand Canyon in less than seven hours. Who knows: he might even pull me along in his cart if I get tired.

2 of 9 Deka

Luke arm image

Senior reporter David Meyer: Having recently had a cycling accident that resulted in a fractured shoulder, I'm typing this with my left arm in a sling. Thankfully I'm right-handed, but I'm still discovering how impossible many basic tasks are without the use of a second arm. Of course, my affliction is only temporary, but many people have permanently lost one or both arms.

It's a particular problem in wars, which is why inventor Dean Kamen — he of Segway fame — has received a wad of Darpa funding for one of his creations: Luke. Named after Luke Skywalker, who had notable problems keeping a full complement of four limbs at all times, the robotic arm is controlled by joysticks in the user's shoes and, as shown in this video, can be used for day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping. Kamen hopes to move to a proper brain-controlled version in the future, but right now I could really use the current iteration at Christmas dinner.

3 of 9 Pitts Presentation

Whiteboard image

Reporter Jack Clark: Every desk I have ever sat behind has become dominated by unstable stacks of paper. These inevitably topple, and are then submerged by further collapses, until all my press releases, spec sheets, contacts folders, business cards, dictaphones, assorted items of fruit and post-its are scrambled together in an un-defraggable melange of pure unholy mess.

For this reason, my ideal Christmas present would be an expletively-sized whiteboard to use for storing my data in a form that can't be buried beneath further drifts of paper. Until it becomes filled, I lose the pens and the handy wiper that is, at which point I will need another one to take up the slack.

4 of 9 Marsyas/Wikimedia Commons

Antikythera Mechanism image

Editor Rupert Goodwins: I would like the Antikythera Mechanism — a computer from ancient Greece that calculates astronomical events and positions through a complex system of gears. It shows that two thousand years ago, there were engineers around who understood mathematics and technology and could bash out the GPS of their day, and reminds me that no matter how clever we think we are with our gizmos, gadgets and globe-conquering gubbins, there's absolutely no guarantee we won't plunge backwards.

In the case of the Antikythera Mechanism, it had to sit out nearly two millennia of superstition, poverty, oppression and a complete lack of decent pocket fun until it was discovered at the turn of the 20th century on the Greek seabed. Not sure today's iPhones would survive as well, to be honest.

5 of 9 Apple

MacBook Air image

Sub-editor Jon Yeomans: I'm currently going through Apple withdrawal symptoms, having worked on a Mac for several years. I was severely tempted to liberate my Mac Mini from my last job, but thought better of it when I realised its absence might have been noticed (not least by the brother of ZDNet UK's crack security reporter Tom Espiner, who inherited it). So when ZDNet UK's reviews editor Charles McLellan was sent a shiny new MacBook Air, thoughts of theft surged back into my mind.

The MacBook Air adverts on the TV are stunningly arrogant — and with good reason. The MacBook Air succeeds in all the usual Apple departments. It's sleek, shiny and lightweight, and you can't resist the temptation to pick it up and coo over it. Well, I couldn't, anyway. So I'd like one MacBook Air for Christmas, please, because those thoughts aren't going away...

6 of 9 Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Tab image

Reporter Ben Woods: The life of a roving reporter might not be all it looks on the surface — seemingly endless train journeys, countless hours spent sat in airports — and that's without mentioning the flurry of long-haul flights. So while it might not seem too adventurous for a Christmas wish list, a Samsung Galaxy Tab would really be useful. Like all true geeks I have my fair share of now-ageing computers scattered about the place — a few newer ones, too — but what I don't have is a tablet.

Of course, there's another fairly well known Apple tablet (the iPad seems to be quite popular by most accounts) but after spending a little time with one I fear that that the size would annoy me over time, meaning that the dimensions and Android OS of the Galaxy Tab win out. Besides, the Samsung device runs on Froyo, likely to be upgraded to Android 2.3, code-named Gingerbread, which sits pretty nicely with my strange prediliction for software named after confectionary delights.

7 of 9 CNET UK

AR drone image

Reviews editor Charles McLellan: I have two Christmas wish list items. The first is a proper 'techie' gadget: the Parrot AR Drone — an iPhone-controlled quadcopter with a pair of on-board Wi-Fi video cameras. The games that go with this flying eye look good, but just the ability to fly around spying on things sounds fun enough. I'm not sure what that says about me.

My second wish-list item follows the recent death of Don van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart. If you're not up on the legendary Captain and his works, check out the excellent The Captain Beefheart Radar Station website. It'll tell you all about this childhood friend of Frank Zappa, early employer of slide master Ry Cooder, uncompromising leader of the incomparable Magic Band and, latterly, highly-regarded abstract expressionist painter.

So, even if There Ain't no Santa Claus on the Evening Stage, I would like this poster to find its way into my stocking as a visual reminder of the great eccentric: 'Parapliers, the Willow Dipped, 1987'.

8 of 9

Airport scanner image

Senior reporter Tom Espiner: Curiously, there is no one piece of kit that has made me salivate this year. I would like a digital recorder for capturing samples, as I would like to start building my own soundscapes, but it's not urgent.

What I would like for Christmas is not a material object, but a state of affairs. Can organisations stop using technology in unnecessary incursions into people's private lives, for state or private sector gain? That would be lovely.

Oh, and proportionate, effective security procedures at airports, rather than the security theatre we have now, please. My blood pressure never fails to rise when some jobsworth asks me to take my shoes off for scanning. Again.

If Santa could also see what's going on with accelerated use of sustainable energy-production technologies, that would be great.

9 of 9 Duracell

Mobile phone charger image

Community and news editor Karen Friar: This isn't something I just wish for at Christmas — I wish for it every time my handset dies because I've forgotten to charge it. It's a phone battery with decent life.

The idea is that computing is going to shift from our desktops and laptops to our handsets. We're already doing some office work on the phone: sending emails, making appointments, checking our websites. Our personal lives run via our handsets, too, whether it's keeping up with Facebook, finding our way to the pub where we're meeting friends, or posting on Twitter about what's going on.

But phone batteries just can't keep up with this without frequent feeding. Until I'm freed from the almost daily need to nurse the battery like a delicate invalid, then a handset just isn't robust and reliable enough for me to spend more of my digital life with it.

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