Paul Sancya  /  AP file
The Honda ASIMO, a robot, demonstrates balance at the North American International Auto Show media preview in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 5, 2004. ASIMO stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility.
updated 3/23/2004 4:36:21 PM ET 2004-03-23T21:36:21

Bright minds from around the world are working to bring you more gadgets that will make your lives easier. Below is a preview of the inventions coming soon to a store near you, as featured on MSNBC's "The Future is Now: Tech Summit 2004."

Many birdwatchers, sports fans, and travelers have often wished that they could preserve the images they’ve seen through the lens of  a  binocular. It was only a matter of time before someone combined long-range binoculars with compact, digital camera and engineered a world of endless possibilities. 
Available? Yes. It will set you back about the same amount as an average digital camera. Click here for some samples from ImageView.

Courtesy Of Shell HomeGenie

Be at two places at once
The Shell HomeGenie is a service that will help you manage your home from wherever you are. Check on your dog while you’re at work, pre-heat your toaster oven while you’re at the supermarket, or adjust the thermostat while driving home. It's basically is a set of products that will let you control appliances from the comfort of your laptop, cellphone, or PDA.
Available? Soon. Right now, it's only available in Atlanta-area CompUSA stores and through their Web site, but it's going nationwide by Dec. 2004. The monthly service charge is a reasonable $25.00 a month, but that doesn't include the $800 starter kit. Broadband service required.

Super toilets
Technology can make anything cool –- even toilets! The wonder of computer technology has made its way into the bathroom, turning the ordinary toilet into a "thinking toilet." The Neorest 600 from Toto has toilet lids that have sensors so they open, close, and flush automatically -- and even has a memory to study your use. It's also operated by a wireless remote to tailor spray water pressure and temperature. It also conserves water and goes into energy-saving and "sleep" modes.
Available? Yes. It's available at most authorized kitchen and bath dealers for about $5,000 - $5,200. Click here for the Toto website.

No-contact jacket
It’s not only quite fashionable, but this no-contact jacket can protect women from assaults. Think of it as an electric armor. When activated, 80,000 volts of an electrical current pulses below the surface shell of the entire jacket and can impair an attacker’s nerves. It’s fully insulated, so the wearer won’t feel a thing.
Available? It may be coming to a boutique near you soon – for now, it’s still in the prototype phase. Click here to learn more.

SCOTTeVEST has designed clothes that have up to 42 creatively hidden pockets for gadgets. The clothes have been designed with the techie in mind -- the jackets can even manage wires and allow you to carry your gadgets without looking like you're carrying everything but the kitchen sink. They’ve designed sports jackets, leather jackets, and vests. They call it “Personal Area Networks,” and claim that even the Secret Service wears their brand!
Available? Yes. Costs from $40-$450, depending on design. Check out the ScottEVest website.

Virtual keyboard
Of all the gadgets that have evolved throughout the years, one thing has remained constant: the keyboard. That may soon change. Using laser technology, any flat surface may soon have the capacity to be a keyboard. This virtual "keyboard" will have neither keys nor a board, but will support any typing speed and may also include a mouse. Can the Tom Cruise "Minority Report" computer set-up be far behind?
Available?  Yes, on this website, compatible to PDAs. They will reportedly be shipping by early April.

Wireless recharge
Imagine throwing your gadgets down on a “Splashpad” which is essentially a high-tech tray/valet that wirelessly and automatically charges your PDA, cellphone, and other personal music devices at the same time.
Available? Not yet. UK-based Splashpower is currently working to bring you this technology.

Honda’s Asimo robot is as close to R2D2 from "Star Wars" as possible, except it’s white and sleek. The robot can walk forward and backward, turn smoothly without pausing, climb stairs and maintain balance while walking on uneven slopes and surfaces. It could one day be put to work as a helper robot for the disabled. Asimo has the ability to respond to some 50 different calls, greetings, and queries in Japanese.
Available? Unfortunately, you can't have your own just yet. Still, it’s pretty cool.

MSNBC's "The Future is Now: Tech Summit" airs Sunday, March 21, 8 p.m. ET.

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