Offbeat Tech Toys for Your Holiday Gift List If you're looking for unusual gift ideas, New York Times technology columnist David Pogue has picked out some off-beat gadgets, both practical and prankish.

Offbeat Tech Toys for Your Holiday Gift List

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


'Tis the season for gizmos and gadgets. But before you add that digital camera or iPod to your shopping list, there are a few unconventional electronic gifts you might want to consider. And here to tell us about a few of these distinctive devices is David Pogue, technology columnist for The New York Times.

Welcome back.

Mr. DAVID POGUE (The New York Times): Good morning. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: So you have a list for us, and all of these items, I gather, can be found on the Web.

Mr. POGUE: Some of them only on the Web.

MONTAGNE: The first item is a robotic chimpanzee. Actually, it's a bust of a chimpanzee.

Mr. POGUE: This they will not soon forget, indeed. It's just this life-size monkey head with eyes that turn around and a voice box and sensors on it. So it howls and shrieks and you pat it on the back and it looks happy and drops its nasty yellow teeth open. And it's available only from the, where you can find a video of it. And I'm telling you, this is a creepy gift.

MONTAGNE: Gosh, David, I'm looking at it on the Web, and I--it would be hard to agree with you more.

(Soundbite of robotic chimpanzee)

MONTAGNE: And here's this chimp laughing.

Mr. POGUE: Exactly, or fear. I'm just not exactly sure.

(Soundbite of robotic chimpanzee)

MONTAGNE: All right. So how about if we swing in a completely different direction and talk about someone who might want to give the gift of music?

Mr. POGUE: Sure. Well, I stumbled across this Web site called InstaSong. And do you remember madlibs, where they'd say, `Give me an adjective, give me a noun,' and it would make a funny story? This is the same thing with pop songs. So it says, `Who's this gift for?' and there's a pop-up menu of 5,000 first names, like Renee. And then it says, `Where does this person live?' and so on. And for $5, you have yourself a professionally recorded and performed pop song. So, Renee, I have taken the liberty of writing one for you.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Merry Christmas, Renee. Happy New Year, too.

Mr. POGUE: And the guy sounds like a bad Michael Bolton, if that's not redundant.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you, David. That's actually quite a charmer.

Mr. POGUE: And, you know, for five bucks, it's perfect for those people that you really don't feel like spending a lot of money on, but you want to make them feel remembered.

MONTAGNE: You know, how about something that's, say, practical? The water clock.

Mr. POGUE: Yeah. This is kind of a neat, high-tech gift, mainly for its wow factor. It's a little LCD digital clock. It's powered from water--actually, any fluid will work; soda, coffee, beer--and it extracts electrons from the water and manages to convert it into electricity just enough to power the clock. And they note enthusiastically that it doubles as a vase. You can stick a flower into the water compartment. For 13 bucks, how can you go wrong?

MONTAGNE: Which brings us to the final gift, a wonderful device that could help you open your presents.

Mr. POGUE: That's exactly right. And I love this story because it's an inventor who himself was furious and frustrated with those hard, plastic, transparent packaging things. You buy something and it comes vacuum-sealed into this rock-hard, acrylic crypt, and you can't get it open and you break your nails and then you try scissors and they break, and you can't open this thing. They're a scourge on mankind, I tell you! All right. I'll get calm here. So he invented something called OpenX. It's a $5 tool that opens any plastic package, including those sinister, hard-plastic clam shells. In fact, maybe you want to buy this OpenX thing before Christmas so you'll have it on hand to open all the other presents.

MONTAGNE: David Pogue puts the `art' in artificial intelligence for The New York Times and MORNING EDITION.

Mr. POGUE: Thank you. And happy high-tech holidays to you, Renee.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Merry Christmas, Renee. Happy New Year, too. May your dreams come true. May your Christmas...

MONTAGNE: OK. For David Pogue's complete list of holiday gift ideas, and to get a look at that alive chimpanzee, go to

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP (Host): And I'm Steve Inskeep.

(Soundbite of music)

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.