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Awards0GWA_banners_300x250-02An iPad-enabled microscope camera. A sensor that can detect water leaks in homes. A camera lens for mobile phones.

These are just a few of the sweet devices up for our GeekWire Awards Gadget of the Year category, which features some of the most impressive pieces of hardware that entrepreneurs in this region have built.

As with each of our categories, the five finalists below were nominated by the community and then selected with the input of our panel of judges. The winners will be announced May 8th at the GeekWire Awards show, taking place at the EMP Museum in Seattle.

A big thanks to our Gadget of the Year category sponsor, Nytec, for helping to make the award possible.

Cast your ballot here:

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Exo Labs Model 1 CameraExo Labs, iPad-enabled microscope camera

Mashing your eyes up against a microscope and peering through a small viewfinder isn’t the most enjoyable or effective way to look at bugs and bacteria. Exo Labs seems to have a good fix for that.

Exo Labs is all about connecting your iPad to a microscope for a more interactive scientific viewing experience. There are similar devices in the market, but they use the built-in camera on iPhones to look through eyepieces.

“This makes it very difficult to interact with what you are viewing and also causes optical distortion since the lenses built into iOS devices are not optimized for this kind of use,” co-founder and CEO Michael Baum said.

Exo Labs, which has raised $2 million to date, has released a variety of accessories in the past few months and is set to debut new products in the near future. The company employs 10 and now has more than 1,000 customers. Meanwhile, its microscope camera was recently featured in Apple’s 30-year Mac anniversary video.

FiftyThree_Pencil_inHand_VerticalPencil by FiftyThree, stylus for touchscreens

You might know FiftyThree as the company behind Paper, which won the Apple 2012 iPad App of the Year. In November, the company released Pencil as a companion to Paper.

Since Paper debuted, one of the top requests from users was a better tool to write and draw with. FiftyThree delivered that in the form of Pencil, a souped-up stylus designed to mimic a physical pencil, pen and paintbrush — all in one device.

“It’s like a multi-use tool that has all the best features of all those tools that you’ve been accustomed to using,” said FiftyThree hardware designer John Ikeda.

Pencil has a few unique features, including a built-in eraser and palm rejection technology, which can differentiate between your palm or the Pencil touching the screen. This allows users to rest a palm on the iPad’s surface while drawing — even when the tablet is used vertically — and not affect their artwork with their hand.

moment-lenses11Moment, mini-camera lenses for mobile phones

Startups often use Kickstarter as a way to test demand — and boy, was there demand for Moment.

Created by Seattle entrepreneur Marc Barros, Moment is a set of photographic lenses that attach seamlessly to the iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy line. Barros, who previously co-founded helmet-mounted video camera maker Contour, originally set a $50,000 goal for his new startup. He ended up pulling in $451,868 from 4,722 backers.

“We are blown away by the results,” Barros said. “We had no idea what to expect when we launched Moment on Kickstarter and to end up being one of the most popular products on the platform ever, is just crazy. We are honored that so many chose to start this journey with us.”

The lenses, which cost $79.99, are designed to allow mobile phone photographers to snap high-quality photos, without sacrificing quality.

poppyPoppy, smartphone 3D viewer

Remember the classic View-Master device? Well, two Seattle area entrepreneurs — Urbanspoon co-founder Ethan Lowry and Snapvine founder Joe Heitzeberg — are looking to re-create that experience for the iPhone generation.

Their oddly-shaped device is called Poppy, and it turns iPhones into a camera “capable of capturing, viewing and sharing full-motion, full-color video and stills in 3D.” That means the Poppy device can be used to watch videos from YouTube’s 3D channel, or any other 3D video or photographic content for that matter.

Lowry and Heitzeberg got the project off the ground with a strong crowdfunding campaign last summer — raising more than $190,000, well past the original goal of just $40,000. They began shipping the device to Kickstarter backers in December.

wallyHOMESNUPI, Wally Home sensors

SNUPI Technologies is a University of Washington spin-out led by serial entrepreneur Jeremy Jaech that sells a $299 device called Wally, which is designed to detect leaks and moisture in homes.

Low-power coin cell batteries power the device, with the system set to work continuously for 10 years. It does this by bypassing traditional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, instead using the copper wiring in the walls of a home as an antenna.

SNUPI scored scored $7.5 million in financing this past January and will use the fresh funds to support the development, production and sales of Wally. Total funding in the 2-year-old startup now stands at $9 million. Learn more about the company here.

Vote in previous categoriesStartup of the YearCEO of the YearApp of the YearInnovation of the YearBootstrapper of the YearYoung Entrepreneur of the YearPerk of the YearGeek of the Year; and Next Tech Titan.

Tickets are going fast for the Awards show, so make sure to pick up yours today!

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