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Nano Air Vehicle

Like most DARPA-sponsored projects, the Nano Air Vehicle ($TBA) isn't the easiest item to describe. Under development by AV, it's designed to be used in urban surveillance and reconnaissance missions, mimicking the biology of a hummingbird to achieve impressive statistics such as a hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source, the ability to fly indoors and out, transitioning easily between the two, the ability to be controlled using nothing but the live video stream from the aircraft, and the ability to fly in windy conditions. Oh, and it looks a lot like a real hummingbird — you know, just in case the whole "robot animals spying on you" bit wasn't creepy enough.

  • Minty Geek

    So let's say that you actually do like to tinker with electronics — if you're looking for a place to start, Minty Geek ($40) is as good as any. Taking its inspiration from the venerable Altoids tin, this pint-sized electronics lab includes a tray insert, linking wires, a 9V battery connector, a light-dependent resistor, a variable resistor, a breadboard, a capacitor, a relay, a switch, a speaker, and various transistors, resistors, and LEDs. Also offered is the Astronomer's Torch Kit ($30), shown above.

  • Twine

    It's always fun to see the crazy things our geeky brethren are able to create with some sensors and a Wi-Fi connection, but unless you've got plenty of time and a penchant for coding, odds are those projects are out of reach. That's where Twine ($100 and up) comes in. Twine is a wi-fi- and sensor-laden gadget that hooks up with a web service to monitor whatever you want in real-time, updating a dedicated Twitter account when necessary. Sensors residing inside the 2.5-inch, soap-like square include a thermometer and accelerometer, and you can add external sensors with ease. Just don't forget to follow your own Twine, lest your warnings of a freezing house go unnoticed.
    [Scouted by Taylor]