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The category of Hardware/Gadget of the Year in the annual GeekWire Awards might conjure up images of devices that would easily slip into a pocket, briefcase or bag. Last year’s winner in this category, Microsoft’s Surface Book, certainly fit that traditional definition.

This year, we’re scaling things up considerably.

Finalists in this category — presented by Igor Institute — include the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine, and a 45-foot tractor trailer designed to move companies to the cloud, along with more traditional entrants such as a smart home speaker, a game console, and some cutting-edge smartphone camera accessories. As a fun twist, we ended up with two Amazon products competing against each other this year among the five finalists.

Public voting is currently under way in the GeekWire Awards, as GeekWire readers decide the winners from finalists selected by our panel of judges, after an open call for nominations from the community.

All of the winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — on May 4 at the Museum of Pop Culture. Tickets are selling fast, and we do expect to sell out, so make sure to go here to grab yours.

Read more about the Hardware/Gadget of the Year finalists and cast your vote here.

 

AWS unveils its Snowmobile in November 2016. (GeekWire Photo)

AWS Snowmobile: People move data to the cloud all the time, but Amazon Web Services is doing it with a giant truck. The company last fall unveiled AWS Snowmobile, a semi-truck and trailer that will pick up as much as an exabyte of data (1 million terabytes) from a customer’s on-premises data center.

Amazon will drive the truck up to a data center, hook up fiber to the data center and ingest the data. The truck then returns to AWS and puts the data into the cloud.

“Moving an exabyte of data would take 26 years with a 10-GB-per-second connection,” AWS CEO Andy Jassy said at the company’s re:Invent conference last fall. “With the Snowmobile, it would take six months. And you wouldn’t believe how many companies have that much data.”

Bertha sees daylight on April 4, 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Bertha: The world’s largest tunnel-boring machine emerged from beneath Seattle on April 4, after traveling more 9,270 feet from the southern end of downtown and placing more than 1,400 concrete rings along the way to form the outer wall of one of the world’s biggest and most complex tunnel mining operations.

The project’s ultimate aim is to replace the earthquake-vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct, the elevated waterfront highway which opened in the 1950s.

The tunneling phase of the project began in July 2013 but was soon plagued by a two-year delay caused by damage to the machine and repairs that followed. Construction of the double-decker highway inside the tunnel is ongoing and traffic isn’t expected to hit the roadway until January of 2019.

Marc Barros
Moment founder Marc Barros. (GeekWire Photo Kurt Schlosser)

Moment smartphone app camera lenses: Seattle-based smartphone lens and case maker Moment marked another successful Kickstarter campaign in March, raising funds for products including a new wide angle lens as well as cases for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, 6 and 6 Plus, and Google’s Pixel.

The 4-year-old Moment, which builds camera lenses, cases and other accessories for smartphones, was founded by Marc Barros, who previously headed up the action-sports camera company Contour. Moment last year landed $3 million in new funding and scored an Apple Store distribution deal.

The Switch can also be removed from the dock and the Joy-Cons latched on to the side for on-the-go gaming. (Nintendo Photo)

Nintendo Switch: After a difficult few years in the home console business, Nintendo is seeing early success with its newest hardware, the multi-purpose Switch console, which can easily transition from a living room machine to a portable device. 

The Switch is the successor to the Wii U, which struggled to gain traction. The Switch’s selling point is its flexibility: it is essentially a tablet that can be docked at a TV for gaming at home but also converts to a mobile gamepad so players can take their games on the go.

Echo Dot
Amazon’s Echo Dot. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon Echo Dot: This pint-sized addition to Amazon’s hardware lineup provides the versatility of the original Echo smart speaker in a smaller package, perfect for getting started with the company’s Alexa voice-enabled assistant.

The $50 device is one reason for strong sales of the overall Echo lineup, with more than 8 million people in the U.S. estimated to own an Echo device as of January.

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