Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan or even Festivus -- which ever is your holiday, gifts are certainly on your list this season. And whether it’s for a secret Santa, white elephant or yankee swap, fruit cakes aren’t going to cut it anymore. (Have they ever, really?)
You’ve got to give some 21st century presents if you want to be remembered past New Year’s. With throwback know-how as well as some of the newest technologies, these 15 gadgets have something for everyone, from tinkerers to tipplers.
Mindless doodling and 3-D printing are so 2012. This year, it’s all about scribbling sculptures freestyle with the 3Doodler. A pen that extrudes molten plastic, this Kickstarter raised $2.3 million -- a hefty sum above its $30,000 goal -- and has already begun shipping to backers.
Built by a pair of robotics and toymakers out of MIT and Purdue, the $99 3-D printing pen can kick out more than 30 different colors, and has already inspired an impressive array of artistic works, from scribbled jewelry to miniature monuments.
Reminiscent of slot cars, but with the wicked wizardry of video games built in, Anki Drive connects artificially intelligent matchbox cars to an iOS app via Bluetooth for real world racing.
The $199 starter kit comes with two cars and a race track -- enough to get a pair of players going, or one person against the self-driving AI. Equipped with virtual shields, weaponry and drivability upgrades, these smart cars are no mere toys, but they are seriously fun.
Art. Lebedev Thermal Battery Mug
Much like a cellphone's waning power, the workday's battle of energy attrition looks a lot like a draining battery icon. Help your co-workers fight back with the Thermal Battery Mug.
Produced by Russian designer Art Lebedev, the mug's heat-activated icon displays how much hot beverage is inside. So, pouring a liquid hotter than 96.8 degrees will light the $15 cup up, while sipping its contents gives the owner a nice caffeinated power boost.
Berg Little Printer
Hard to believe, but before touch screens and apps dominated tech, there were things like printers and paper. Reminiscent of the Print Shop era, the Berg Little Printer uses smartphones to connect to more than 150 different publications, and spits them out on little receipt-sized pieces of paper.
Great for waking up to the day’s weather forecast and headlines, posting the company's Google Analytics on the break room fridge, or just popping out a quick sudoku puzzle, the $219 printer uses inkless thermal paper that is BPA-free and sustainably sourced. In other words, while it won’t spit out money, it will print green.
Part gimmick, part genius, these Bluetooth-enabled gloves pack a speaker in the thumb and microphone in the pinky, turning the international symbol for "call me!" from talk into action.
With buttons on the cuff to answer or hang up, they can be a great hands-free way to make a call -- except for howthey require the callers to use their hands. Charging in just 30 minutes, the finger-phone provides up to 12 hours of talk-time, and the conductive fibers in the tips let users interact with touchscreen smartphones, a thoughtful feature that garners this $79 handset two thumbs up.
Crosley Cruiser Turntable
For years people thought, "If only there was a way to take my music on-the- go." Well, move over, dreamer because with the Crosley Cruiser Turntable, you finally can.
Okay, so this three-speed portable turntable isn't particularly newfangled, but lightweight, well-constructed and with built-in speakers, it is a nice addition to a vinyl collector's cache. The wood, faux leather and felt construction gives the $99 piece warm acoustics.
And, if you happen to leave your favorite platter at home, the headphone jack lets users plug in their smartphone or MP3 player for some new-wave digital sound.
With the explosive popularity of both running and gaming, you don't have to look far for a friend who collects power-ups or enjoys a good endorphin rush. Combining exercise, goal setting and casual gaming, this fitness tracker-cum-game controller lets people work out while playing addictive games on their mobile device.
Developed by Guitar Hero's co-creator Kai Huang, the $99 Goji Play pairs with an iOS-compatible app that links to games like an update on the arcade classic Zaxxon and the daring bike racer Spin or Die, as well as the popular exercise platform My Fitness Pal. And by strapping the controls onto an exercise bike, elliptical machines or treadmills players can improve their game by upping their workout intensity.
Hostess Twinkie Maker
They said that Twinkies would outlive us all, and -- despite Hostess actually shutting down -- they were right. Proving that if you love something enough you can keep it alive forever, the unbelievable Twinkie resurrection of 2013 was one of the year's biggest stories. But your sponge cake-loving friends can forever protect themselves from a life sans cream filling with this authentic snack press.
With six molds to make half a dozen oblong treats, this $30 appliance comes with nonstick molds and a recipe book to make crazy confections like red velvet or chocolate Twinkies if the get bored of the original style … as if that could ever.
Electricity is not a toy. But with LittleBits, it’s still pretty fun.
A Lego-like set of modules designed to teach youngsters about circuits and currents, these low-voltage, battery-operated kits come with an array of pieces and a near-infinite amount of possibilities.
The $99 Base Kit comes with a motor, a button, wires and a buzzer -- everything you need to put together a handshake prank. Meanwhile, the $159 Synth Kit has all sorts of noisemakers, from a pair of oscillators to a keyboard, which can be used to make a powerful analog synthesizer.
There's always one person in a group who takes his or her casual gaming a bit too seriously. And the new Logitech Powershell can be a great gift for him or her.
Developed using Apple’s new MFi (made for iOS) protocol, this $99 game controller takes the finger out of the play (and the line of sight) allowing users to mash buttons like they were playing an early-1990s Game Boy. Syncing with newer iOS 7 games, the Powershell also doubles as an external battery, actually charging the phone rather than draining it, like so many other peripherals.
Monkey Light Pro
Being safe in the saddle isn't usually the coolest look on the streets, but bicyclists sporting the Monkey Light are worth a second look. At least that's the thinking behind this spoke-connecting LED array that has full color graphics, waterproof construction, a stainless steel anti-theft strap and up to 25 hours of battery life.
For $49, the M210 provides 10 LEDs, which is enough for one wheel with five lights per side and 20 different patterns. Or, for $75, the M232 triples the visibility with 32 total bulbs and 48 themes. Great for bike commuters, it will get riders to and from work safely and in style.
Nimbus Smart Dashboard
From notifications to app badges to alerts, these days, there's too many ways to be told the same things. The Nimbus Smart Dashboard paints a clear picture of pressing concerns by pairing with a smartphone app and reporting on four pieces of information.
The $129 personal gauge can track calendar appointments, traffic, weather, email volume, time and more. One way for teams to keep aware of group goals without constantly diving into apps or online, the Nimbus is compatible with iOS 6 and above and Android 2.2 or higher.
In my opinion, a perfect drink is one that someone mixes for you (and a nice top-shelf gin helps, too). But this app-controlled smart bartender, despite its arrogant name, comes close.
With hundreds of drink recipes, the computerized mixologist weighs your beverage with a connected scale as you pour, telling you what ingredient to add next. Overpour that Hendricks? (Wink, nudge.) Well, no worries, because the app recalculates accordingly, suggesting ways to rescue the beverage.
An excellent gift for any bourgeoning mixologist, this $69 tool is a fun way to learn how to shake it up behind the bar.
Playaboule Lighted Bocce Ball Set
Good technology solves problems. Great technologies solve problems we never knew existed. Take night bocce, for example. If you’ve ever played it -- you probably haven't -- you’d know it's dark and near impossible to see the balls. But get some LEDs into the game and suddenly you've got 24 hours of ball tossing ahead of you.
This kit of eight, 4.2-inch, regulation-sized bocce balls weighs 12 pounds in all, and with solid construction they can take a tumble and keep on rolling. The $83 set can be easily seen more than 100 feet away, and their batteries last up to eight hours. Indeed, that's almost enough for bocce till the break of dawn.
Sometimes getting an edge in the boardroom starts on the golf course. Or at the company softball game. Or at the tennis court. Zepp, with its swing-analyzing sensor, helps golfers, hitters and tennis players to improve their game by recording more than 1,000 data points per second.
Giving players impact analysis, swing plane data and other information like bat speed, the iOS- and Android-compatible trainer helps players get the maximum amount of bat, club or racket on the ball. Costing $149, the sensor is barely noticeable, but can have big results for ironing kinks out of a swing.
Just remember: swing hard, in case you hit it.