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GAMES, GIZMOS, AND GOODIES THAT WILL BE PUSHING THE BUTTONS OF TECHIES AND TECHNOPHOBES ALIKE

Since the transition to ‘00 passed without a glitch in the matrix, gadget makers are likely to pump up product lines and take advantage of our renewed faith in the Jetson Age. Soon, you’ll need a dedicated computer just to sort through all the new devices, software programs, and online entertainment. In the meantime, here’s a list of near-futuristic items that we’re looking forward to:

PLAYSTATION2

WHY IT MATTERS Like Darwin’s sea creatures crawling out of the muck, desktop computers will take a giant leap into home entertainment in the fall with Sony’s PlayStation2. DETAILS As powerful as a PC, the console is expected to play DVDs, have a line-in jack for digital cameras, provide broadband cable-modem compatibility, and offer Web access to music and movies on demand. COMPETITION With Nintendo’s new system, Dolphin, shrouded in secrecy, Sega’s Dreamcast[TM] is becoming PlayStation’s most serious predator – but it is rumored that both will be DVD upgradable by this time next year. UPSHOT No matter which console survives, adults will have a gaming machine that they won’t feel childish owning.

HANDSPRING VISOR

WHY IT MATTERS It’s the Swiss Army knife of portable digital organizers. DETAILS A Springboard card slot, similar to the one found on a Game Boy, turns the Visor into an MP3 player, cell phone, light meter, or thermometer. COMPETITION Palm Computing and Ericsson, among others, are turning their PDAs and cell phones into Rambo-worthy tools that include limited wireless Web browsing. UPSHOT The Visor’s best weapon will be to introduce an army of Springboard add-ons that are both useful and affordable.

OXYGEN

WHY IT MATTERS If there’s one thing on TV that could unglue dot-commers from CNBC’s stock reports, it’s the Oprah-powered Oxygen cable network, due Feb. 2. DETAILS The wired world will be watching how the network’s producers weave interactivity into their lineup and surmount the still bigger challenge of creating Web enhancements for a nontech audience. COMPETITION Lifetime, which has millions more subscribers, and the Web-based iVillage. UPSHOT Oxygen’s youth is a big advantage: It’s easier to make new shows Web-friendly than to teach old talk shows new Net tricks.

THE SIMS

WHY IT MATTERS Due next month, the anticipated new game from the creator of SimCity puts players in control of a single-home social experiment. DETAILS Teach your family to pay the bills, or the repo man pays a visit; teach dad to cook, or he burns down the house. COMPETITION HALO, a single and multiplayer alien-world action-adventure title worthy of big screen presentation. UPSHOT The Sims is for thinking players, while HALO satisfies the inner gamer; we’ll take them both. – Noah Robischon

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EDITED BY Maggie Murphy and Cynthia Grisolia WRITTEN AND REPORTED BY Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, Rob Brunner, Julia Dahl, Steve Daly, Mike Flaherty, Gillian Flynn, Bruce Fretts, Jeff Gordinier, David Hochman, Jeff Jensen, Beth Johnson, Dave Karger, Allyssa Lee, Leslie Marable, Leonard McCants, Joe Neumaier, Troy Patterson, Lynette Rice, Joshua Rich, Erin Richter, Jessica Shaw, Nancy Sidewater, Tom Sinclair, Chris Willman