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Tomorrow's hot tech gear today

A look at some of the coolest gadgets and technologies coming soon.

Dancing robots, underwater "dolphin" vehicles and a solar panel car that can run in below-freezing temperatures may be technologies for tomorrow, but they're being talked about today. These and other products were just some of the gadgets on display at WIRED NextFest, a showcase of tech gear for the future that opened Friday and runs through Sunday in New York. The show drew visitors ranging from techies to school children. Some of the exhibits were just plain cool - one of the robots featured actually does the Robot dance. And while not all the products are commercially available, from the doctor's office to the airport, several of the technologies have a real-life application today.

5 technologies ready for today

High-tech boarding passes: These passes developed by Symbol Technologies, which was recently bought by Motorola , are designed to make flying safer and more convenient. When you check-in, a scan of your face is taken and stored in an RFID tag embedded on your boarding pass. When you go through security, a gateway scanner reads the tag and makes sure you are who you say you are.

Costs include the tags themselves, which run about 50 cents each, to the gate scanners that read the chips. Now it's up to the airlines to implement the technology, said Timothy Heffernan, director of government relations and public policy at Symbol Tech.

VeinViewer: Giving blood could be a less painful and less time consuming affair in the future. According to the makers of the VeinViewer, it takes about 2.4 attempts and 23 minutes for medical personnel to find a patient's vein today. The VeinViewer, which uses near-infrared light to makes veins visible at the surface, is designed to increase the chances of a "successful stick."

The VeinViewer costs about $25,000. In comparison, a hospital bed alone runs about $12,000.

MindBall: Living in a more connected and tech-focused world can result in added stress, and MindBall's biofeedback system may soon become a regular way to monitor and manage stress levels.

If you're going to win MindBall, a game designed by the Interactive Institute, you've got to be relaxed. Two players sit across from each other at a table wearing headbands that monitor their brain activity. Their brainwaves control a ball on the table, and the most relaxed player wins.

The Hug shirt: With the development of video conferencing and Web cameras, maintaining a long-distance relationship has never been easier. Now there's a way to bring touch into the picture.

The Hug shirt, using Bluetooth technology and embedded sensors, makes it possible to send a hug to another wearer of a Hug shirt over distance. An added bonus: The shirts are machine washable. But the cost of a hug can be pricey - the shirts are expected to retail for around $500 to $700 apiece.

Bionic dolphin: Forget swimming with dolphins, why not be one? The bionic dolphin, an underwater vehicle, can reach up to 40 mph. Doc Rowe, the developer of the vehicle, got most of his ideas watching dolphins and penguins move in the water and designed the vehicle so it "flies" through water.

In addition to a two-seater model, Rowe said his team is working on a vehicle that carries five passengers. Rowe said he's hoping to sell the dolphins to resorts, which means the bionic dolphin could come to a vacation near you.

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