I got a reminder of this last week watching the Wall Street Journals' Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher -- along with special guest Chad Hurley, cofounder of YouTube -- demo their favorite geek gadgets at a Churchill Club event in Silicon Valley. Mossberg opened by saying that 2006 was a weak year for new tech gadgets, dominated by incremental improvements rather than breakthrough devices. But he expects 2007 to be a great year, and he backed it up by showing a parade of cool and wacky toys:
For the office: a USB hamster wheel, with fake hamster, you can plug into your machine. The faster you type, the faster the hamster wheel spins.
For the airplane: a video headset the size of a wrap-around pair of sunglasses, which apparently simulates the quality of a 50-inch hi-def display (although as Mossberg joked, "People always exaggerate size").
For the family: a true high-def 1080i camcorder (I seem to recall Sony or Panasonic) that can record 7 minutes on a 4GB memory card, and will be introduced next month at a retail price of US$1,000. To which I can only say ... Wow!
For the bedroom: a furry alarm-clock size Linux-based device called a Chumby, which downloads widgets via your laptop and uses them to display weather, news headlines, sports scores, and so on.