New electronic equipment for the gadget-obsessed host.
Sing For Your Supper
Karaoke seems to be enjoying a vogue among the kitsch-is-cool crowd. (Even Moby's been caught in the act.) With the irock! portable karaoke player, you can download music from the company's Web site (each song costs from $1.50 to $3.50) and store it on the 650 MP3K machine. That includes current tunes, not just the usual decades-old chestnuts. When the next Britney Spears wannabe is ready to go, the player scrolls the words to the chosen song across the screen in time to the music while recording the vocals. Then you can either plug the machine into a stereo system so the whole party can hear the performance again or play the song through headphones to a more select (and understanding) audience ($250; 847-202-1900 or www.myirock.com).
Throwing an alfresco jazz brunch doesn't have to require listening to Sonny Rollins from a black plastic boom box. Instead, you can hook up your sound system to Rockustics Omniplanters, which do double duty as stereo speakers and flowerpots. Not only do these 70-watt speakers deliver rich, 360-degree sound, but they are also water- and frost-resistant—which means that even if your plants aren't perennials, your speakers can be ($600$900 a pair; 800-875-1765 or www.rockusticsinc.com).
Last Picture Show
Only the most horrendous host would subject friends to a slide show. Kodak's Smart Picture Frame gives photos a proper forum without being obtrusive. It may look like a regular wooden frame—about eight by nine inches—but the glass is a high-resolution screen that can display either a digital picture or a rotating slide show of up to 36 digital images. You either transfer the images from the memory cards used by most digital cameras or download your photos from the company's Web site. Leave the frame on a shelf to provide fodder for cocktail conversation; no one at the party even has to put down their drink to flip through the pictures ($350; 800-235-6325 or www.kodak.com/go/smartframe).
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Cross a digital camera with a camcorder and get a multimedia fantasy: Sony's Handycam. The new Digital8 DCR-TRV830 uses removable memory cartridges, so you can transfer photos and video clips to your computer. Or edit the video on the camcorder and play it back on your television. Guests can watch footage of the party while it's still swinging. If they see a scene they like, you can give them stills to take home, using the detachable color printer ($1,299; 800-222-7669 or www.sel.sony.com).
Bang & Olufsen's BeoSound 1 compact stereo is big news for fans of this top-tier Danish company. The unit is small enough to fit tight spaces, and its curved face has a striking design, with a retro red-light display that looks like the faces of the earliest digital watches. The stereo comes in five metallic colors and can follow partygoers wherever the mood takes them ($1,500; 866-367-2264 or www.bang-olufsen.com).
The Cross Convergence pen has a definite James Bondian appeal. One end is a ballpoint; the other is a miniature bar-code scanner. If you're shopping for a digital camera, say, or a bottle of wine, and see one you like, you can scan the UPC code to get its Web address. (Some print ads also incorporate bar codes.) Download the information from the pen into your computer to quickly connect to the site. With a memory that can hold up to 300 codes, the Cross Convergence pen packs a lot of power—and that means you may never have to jot down "www" again ($90; www.cross.com).
If flat-screen televisions were last year's favorite tech toy, no-screen TVs promise to be this year's. Sharp's HDTV-compatible projector, the XV-DW100U, looks like a slide projector without a carousel, but it acts like a movie projector, beaming high-definition digital video onto a wall. You can adjust the image from 40 inches (measured diagonally) up to 300—for when you want to screen a film on the side of a building and invite the whole neighborhood ($11,000; 877-388-7427 or www.sharp-usa.com).