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Happy 'Leave the Office Earlier Day'

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"Having an alarm clock run away from you was an obvious solution for chronic oversleepers," says Gauri Nanda, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the clock was developed. "This ensures that the person is fully awake before turning it off."

Those who are eager for early morning games of hide-and-seek with their appliances will have to wait at least a year before Clocky hits stores, but the new gizmo should cost about $30. And, no, you're not dreaming.

3. Electric Babble for Worker's Playtime
How do you call your lover at work? If Big Brother isn't listening, the guy on the other side of your cubicle probably is. You can either buy him an iPod or get yourself a Babble — a device that sits on your desk, duplicates your voice and makes it indecipherable to passers-by.

The Babble removes that need to conspicuously turn up the office radio when you need privacy. This $400 device records your voice, and spits out bits and pieces of conversation, so that the folks around you will be utterly confused.

"It essentially turns one person's voice into something that sounds like a small-group conversation,'' says Bill DeKruif, president of Sonare Technologies, Herman Miller's research and design arm in Chicago.

"Anyone standing just a few feet away can hear the person talking but is unable to discern the content of the conversation because it's being muddled by the other voices."'

The Babble — which hits stores this summer — is said to mask conversations without distracting the user. Masking office conversations isn't just for goof-offs. The manufacturer says managers will be using it to guard proprietary information. If you can't understand half the things your boss says anyway, he may already be using one.

4. When Mommy Works Late: Remote Hugging
For any parent, the worst part about pulling an all-nighter is that you can't tuck your kid into bed. But soon, you may be able to reach out and really touch someone long distance — without picking up the phone — and that special someone can hug you back.

Robotics experts at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University have unveiled "The Hug," a pillow that uses sensing devices and wireless technology to send an electronic embrace to someone you love.

To send a hug, your kid would have a special stuffed animal equipped with a microphone. The tyke would say, "mommy" or "daddy" and would squeeze it. A signal would go out to that parent, who has brought the pillow to work, sending out the electronic equivalent of a warm, fuzzy feeling.