Editor’s note:"Innovation Exchange"is a regular feature in Local Tech Wire. Noah Garrett, former director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, is a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, who owns and operates NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — All of this doom and gloom about the economy has really bummed out my holiday spirits. That is until today and checking out some of the cool tech gifts out this holiday season.

I’m not a fan of lists or endorsements of certain products, but this year I’ve discovered some really interesting gifts that range from the high-end to pretty affordable. I’ve also broken them down into categories for various folks who might be on your holiday shopping list.

Anyway, enjoy – and I hope it puts some holiday cheer into your day.

My top gift for 2008

Slingbox. It’s about $250 but really maximizes your total entertainment investment. I’m on the road a lot and an avid sports fan. I have purchased NFL Sunday Ticket this season for an extremely pricey amount (mainly because I can’t get Redskins games where I’m at) but can only watch it at home. If I had a Slingbox, I could watch programming from my home television system via laptop by streaming a compressed video feed over the Internet. There’s even a virtual remote control to change the channel at home from anywhere in the world. By far, the coolest device out there. I hope my wife reads this (hint).

For environmentalists

Moixa Energy USBCell AA NiMH batteries recharge in USB ports or standard AA chargers. They are easy to use and employ a low-toxic technology. Even the packaging includes recycled card stock and is recyclable.

For social media junkies

Botanicalls DIY Plant Twitter Kit is pretty unique. Your houseplants can Twitter you when they’re thirsty. Seriously. With these kits, you build the sensors, connect them to your router via Ethernet, and program the alert thresholds that generate the Tweets. This sounds pretty amazing. Shout out if you have one.

For the itty-bitty ones

Zizzle has teamed with Hooked on Phonics to create handheld, carry-along Smart Sticks, which help tots learn how to recognize and pronounce letters, numbers, colors and shapes. Pretty cool.

For kids

Fuhgetaboutit! Anything mobile and your golden. That’s my advice, anyway.

For college students

PNY Technology Collegiate Flash Drive shows your school spirit while keeping all your important files (or songs, or videos). They have about 170 schools available in 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB flash drives.

For dad

A universal remote control is a must. Just as mom can appreciate a universal remote control at home, so can dad. I suggest finding one that is easy to use and set up, although most dads appreciate the chance to tinker and figure one out despite how difficult some of them can be these days.

For mom

Amazon’s Kindle wireless reading device is a bit pricey, but it’s a revolutionary offering electronic-paper display on a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper. For moms who like to read and are on the go a lot, this is a pretty simple, easy-to-use device that is chic and comes with wireless capabilities.

For gamers

"Gears of War 2" from the Triangle’s very own Epic Games should be on every gamer’s list. This is not for the faint of heart by any means. The graphics are stunning and really put gamers in an environment where shooting and killing monsters is the business at hand. Though violence is the name of the game, it does require players to do so with some intelligence. Every gamer should have this in his or her portfolio.

For real geeks

CoolIT USB Beverage Chiller keeps your beverage chilled so you can stay at your computer longer. It is powered by a 5-foot USB cable and plugs into any USB port, desktop or laptop. The Chiller looks like an iPod charger with a small intake fan on the side.

Don’t buy

Now, not to be Johnny Raincloud, but here’s one gift you should probably avoid this season.

Blu-ray players are still overpriced. I’ll reconsider my position when manufacturers come to their senses.

If you have any other ideas, please share them with us. Happy hunting and happy holidays.