When it comes to gifting, we all know that cutting-edge electronics get the biggest reactions. But that doesn’t mean you can just run out to grab a random pair of headphones at the local electronics shop and call it a day. You need to go big. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the most clever gadgets out there, each of which is packed with game-changing features to truly amaze even your most hard-to-impress techie friends. From completely customizable robots to telescopes that can pinpoint the stars for you, here are some of the most game-changing gadgets out there. (We won’t judge if you add a few to your own cart, too.)
How they change the game: Language translation in real time Price: $159 Imagine being able to ask a local in Barcelona where to find the best tapas, without knowing a lick of Spanish? That may not be as far-off as we once thought, thanks to the Pixel Buds from Google. While the process is still clunky, these wireless earbuds use Google’s translation tool to translate other languages in real time with the Pixel smartphone. One person speaks into the Pixel, and it’s automatically translated and spoken through the earbuds. Then, the earbuds-wearer’s response is translated for the native speaker and repeated through the phone. Primitive? Slightly, but, that means a truly natural conversation between people who speak different languages may be closer than we think.
How it changes the game: Softer touches make VR much more like regular R Price: $2,295 For most of us, it’s difficult to see a daily use for AR/VR beyond funny social media filters. But, to the tech world, this is the next frontier. The Magic Leap One augmented reality headset is one of the most groundbreaking to be released so far, thanks especially to the company’s claim that it will eventually replace every screen in our lives with its technology. While still reviewed as a work in progress, it’s been touted as a glimpse of what the future of AR/VR will look like, especially thanks to “photonic chips” — aka, small darkened lenses that let in natural light, as well as create synthetic light fields, to trick your neural signals into thinking the dinosaur in your office is actually there. (But does it simulate the glass of water next to it shaking with each step?)
How it changes the game: An infinitely customizable bot makes learning robotics accessible from your living room Price: $949 Arachnophobes, apologies in advance for this one. Vincross unveiled Hexa, a spider-like robot, last year, much to the delight of robotics hobbyists and computer programmers. That’s thanks to not only highly advanced robotics features (like an actual feisty personality and the ability to sense obstacles, sunlight, and distance) but to its software — which is designed to teach the user to learn robotics programming, a skill that’s typically inaccessible. The MIND system allows you (with some computer programming skills) to create movement patterns and applications for practical uses. Take this one user, who taught his Hexa to be a smart planter, and would walk his succulent to the brightest spots of his living room, as well as tell him when the plant needed to be watered. If you’re on the fence about getting one, there’s a sandbox simulator so you can compose code and test its functionality before dropping a grand on a Hexa outside The Matrix.
How it changes the game: Customize your home’s scent with the push of a button Price: $139 Proving that truly nothing, not even your nose, is safe from the Internet of Things, Moodo is essentially a smart candle/essential oil diffuser. Unveiled in January, Moodo connects with Amazon’s Alexa to automatically keep your home smelling like “The Gardens of Kanazawa” or, more common, “Cozzy” which is a mix of pie, spices, and cookies. If you set your Moodo to “shuffle” it’ll automatically adjust the scent level so you don’t go “noseblind” to it. There’s also an app you can use to set the levels, if you find that the scent is too overpowering. With four scents slotted at any given time, you always have access to 24 different scent permutations, though you can adjust the levels to create even more specific combos.
How it changes the game: Turns any old key into a smart key Price: Retail approximately $78 Smart locks are all the rage right now, but there’s one issue with them: They are incredibly easy to hack. Besides that, if you’re a renter, you can’t install them. Locky is half smart key, half key tracker — but you won’t need to replace your key or lock to use it. Instead, your real key will be inserted into the Locky overlay, and that overlay will track your door’s lock status, where your key is, and other benefits of smart locks — sending all the alerts to an app on your phone. It was fully funded through Kickstarter earlier this year, and it’s set to start shipping by early January.
How it changes the game: It precisely aims at the constellation you want to observe, so no more fumbling to find it yourself Price: $2,999 Checking out the heavenly bodies sans light pollution is one of the best parts of enjoying the outdoors, but small problem: Telescopes are often too big and heavy to lug to a campsite. The Vaonis Stellina is not only portable, (it weighs only 15 pounds and folds into a block) but it also uses GPS technology to locate and focus on a constellation, star, or planet you want to see, meaning you’ll spend more time actually checking out the heavenly bodies than trying to find them. It also connects via a smartphone app to help you seamlessly take photos, then share them immediately with friends.
How it changes the game: It’s the world’s first holographic phone in the price range of an iPhone X Price: $1295 The Hyrdogen One, by Red (a camera manufacturer Hollywood calls when it wants action films to look amazing) is not just another smartphone. It runs on Android, you can swap out the camera and unbolt the battery, and — oh yeah, it projects holographic images. That means multi-dimensional content (essentially, anything in 3D) will be viewable without having to slap on a pair of funny-looking glasses. The concept was unveiled last year, and models are set to be released November 2, just in time for the holiday rush. Your options are aluminum and titanium, at least till they manage to build one out of solid light.