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Cutting-edge technology isn’t just for big business. In fact, a lot of it is meant for everyday consumers like you and me, for students looking to get a foot into engineering, for moms and dads looking to fix up their homes 6 Ways To Make Use Of A 3D Printer At Home 6 Ways To Make Use Of A 3D Printer At Home Let's say you had a 3D printer set up next to your computer right now, what could you realistically make with it today? Here are some ideas. Read More . And the best part is that nothing has the wow-factor of a cutting-edge device.

For the special technophiles in your life, consider the gift of cutting edge consumer technology. We’re talking drones, 3D printers, virtual reality, wearable technology, and home automation. These aren’t just gadgets, they’re the future of innovation, and you can buy them now.

Virtual Reality Gifts

Everyone who owns a smartphone needs to install the virtual reality (VR) Google Cardboard Meet Google's Next-Generation Virtual Reality Platform Meet Google's Next-Generation Virtual Reality Platform Read More application right away (available for Android and iOS). That’s because you can now turn any Android or iOS smartphone into a VR device with very little effort.

Most people don’t realize that the smartphone includes all the basic requirements of a head-tracking virtual reality device.

Aside from Cardboard, there’s no other consumer-ready VR standard out there. The only VR development kit out there is the Oculus Rift DK2, which is no longer being sold at this time, and the official consumer release won’t be here until 2016.

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Google Cardboard is by far the cheapest and most consumer friendly VR package out there. It’s pretty simple to set up, as well. Just install the Google Cardboard application and insert your smartphone into the headset’s cradle. The Google Cardboard headset uses the phone’s sensors and screen to provide an immersive 3D experience.

The higher the phone’s resolution, the greater the realism. Here’s an example of what it looks like:

I also recommend pairing a Cardboard headset with a wireless Bluetooth headphone and either a Bluetooth remote or a gamepad. Keep in mind that many of these peripherals are manufactured by a single company, but rebranded and sold stateside by myriad marketing companies.

Google Cardboard VR Headset

Google-Apps-Cardboard

D-scope Pro Google Cardboard Kit with Straps 3D Virtual Reality Compatible with Android & Apple Easy Setup Instructions Machine Cut Quality Construction 45mm Lenses HD Visual Experience D-scope Pro Google Cardboard Kit with Straps 3D Virtual Reality Compatible with Android & Apple Easy Setup Instructions Machine Cut Quality Construction 45mm Lenses HD Visual Experience COMPLETE GOOGLE CARDBOARD KIT; D-scope Pro Google Cardboard set Fully compatible: Nexus 4/5, Moto X and Galaxy S4/S5/S6 | Partially compatible (No magnetic input): HTC One, Moto G, iPhone 5/5c/5s/6 | Limited compatibility (No magnetic input / headtracking & rendering issues): Galaxy S3 include everything needed to transform your Apple or Android smart phone screen into a super immersive VR experience including lenses, magnets and more! Buy Now At Amazon $13.99
  • FAVOLCANO 3D Headset: A solid pick, but doesn’t include NFC or a magnetic button. ($15 via Amazon)
  • D-scope Pro Google Cardboard Headset: Slightly better than FAVOLCANO’s option and better designed. ($17 via Amazon)
  • CreateGreat 3D Virtual Reality Headset: The highest end option. ($36 via Amazon)

Bluetooth Remote or Gamepad

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Measy Latest Bluetooth 3.0 RC16 for Mini PC Android Box Player Windows PC Measy Latest Bluetooth 3.0 RC16 for Mini PC Android Box Player Windows PC It makes you relax well, control you computer, TV entertainment easily. Buy Now At Amazon

Audio Headset

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Xiaomi Piston III Headset Earphones with Remote and Mic - Black Xiaomi Piston III Headset Earphones with Remote and Mic - Black Won Reddot award 2015 in Germany Buy Now At Amazon

Drone Technology Gifts

Drones caught consumer attention when the U.S. military initiated drone strikes throughout the Middle East, and later when Amazon popularized the concept of drone deliveries Amazon Teases Drone Deliveries, Sweden Saves The Pirate Bay... [Tech News Digest] Amazon Teases Drone Deliveries, Sweden Saves The Pirate Bay... [Tech News Digest] Amazon promises its drones are still coming, Sweden protects The Pirate Bay, OnRad.io helps you find your favorite songs, Microsoft tests Cortana on iOS, and David Tennant explains the general theory of relativity. Read More .

In short, a drone combines remote-controlled flight with video recording capabilities. There’s even some tie into virtual reality with Google Cardboard: with Google Cardboard, drones allow users to experience what the drone experiences, provided the drone possesses compatible hardware (depth-sensing cameras).

Drone prices range all over the place, from tens of thousands to the tens of dollars — but you get what you pay for. Enthusiasts, of course, should consider one of the higher-end models whereas entry-level consumers should wet their feet with one of the more inexpensive models.

Due to the nature of the spinning blades, drones aren’t suitable for all ages of children, unless supervised by an adult.

UDI drone

UDI U818A 2.4GHz 4 CH 6 Axis Gyro RC Quadcopter with Camera RTF Mode 2 UDI U818A 2.4GHz 4 CH 6 Axis Gyro RC Quadcopter with Camera RTF Mode 2 6 AXIS GYRO with posture control - Integrated design guarantee the precise positioning of the aircraft. Buy Now At Amazon $52.25

Right now the most important consumer drone is the DJI Phantom 3 (we reviewed an older DJI Phantom 2 DJI Phantom 2 Vision Review and Giveaway DJI Phantom 2 Vision Review and Giveaway Read More ), which blends together high-end performance with mid-range pricing. Unfortunately, the Phantom 3 is almost impossible to find at present, but many alternatives exist:

  • DJI T600 Inspire 1 (v.2) Quadcopter with 4K camera: It’s ridiculously pricey. ($2,699 via Amazon)
  • Parrot Bebop Quadcopter: It’s probably the best alternative to the Phantom. ($437 via Amazon)
  • UDI U818A with Camera: A low-cost alternative to the DJI Phantom 3. ($110 via Amazon)
  • Hubsan X4 H107C with Camera: It’s a great choice for those looking to get their feet wet. ($49 via Amazon)

3D Printer Gifts

3D printers What Is 3D Printing And How Exactly Does It Work? What Is 3D Printing And How Exactly Does It Work? Imagine if you could print out three-dimensional objects straight from a printer in your home. When I was a kid in primary school, I thought it would be awesome if I could print pizzas out... Read More allow consumers to download, design, and print out three-dimensional shapes using a variety of plastics (and sometimes metals or even chocolate). A conventional 3D printer melts down spools of plastic using fused deposition modeling and then extrudes the liquified material onto a tray.

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FlashForge 3d Printer Creator Pro, Metal Frame Structure, Acrylic Covers, Optimized Build Platform, Dual Extruder W/2 Spools, Works with ABS and PLA FlashForge 3d Printer Creator Pro, Metal Frame Structure, Acrylic Covers, Optimized Build Platform, Dual Extruder W/2 Spools, Works with ABS and PLA Full manufacturer's warranty fulfilled by Flashforge, and lifetime support provided by expert FlashForge technicians Buy Now At Amazon $829.00

A few 3D printers even include 3D scanners, which gets pretty close to a Star Trek replicator. Depending on the printer and size of the project, the process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

There are four primary kinds of consumer-grade 3D printers out there: PLA, ABS, exotic materials, and resin. Resin and exotic materials printers cost a fortune — I’d advise staying away from those kinds of 3D printers until the technology matures — but PLA and ABS printers are consumer-ready now.

Home Automation Gifts

Smart Home What Is A Smart Home? What Is A Smart Home? We recently launched a Smart Home category at MakeUseOf, but what is a smart home? Read More , or Home Automation, is the wireless control — and automation — of home appliances. In a Smart Home, everything from the smoke detectors to lighting can be remotely controlled and automated.

To illustrate, the Philips Hue Philips Hue Starter Kit Review and Giveaway Philips Hue Starter Kit Review and Giveaway The market is flooded by bulbs with wifi, all with their own silly mobile app that you need to fuss around with to turn them on. Is the Hue any different? We find out. Read More line of smart lighting can change its brightness and color to better match one’s personal preferences. Smart Home products not only reduce the time users spend fiddling with their appliances, but can also improve standards of living, home safety, and even save money on heating How to Install and Use the Nest Thermostat to Automate Energy Savings How to Install and Use the Nest Thermostat to Automate Energy Savings If you've ever considered getting started with home automation, purchasing a Nest thermostat is the perfect way to start. In just a week of using it, we cut our energy consumption in half. Read More .

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Philips Hue White A19 Starter Kit with two A19 LED light bulbs and bridge (hub), Works with Alexa Philips Hue White A19 Starter Kit with two A19 LED light bulbs and bridge (hub), Works with Alexa Works with Alexa for voice control (Hue Bridge hub required and included, Alexa device sold separately) Buy Now At Amazon $69.99

We’ve already covered some of the best home automation gifts 9 Impressive Home Automation Gadgets Family & Friends Will Love 9 Impressive Home Automation Gadgets Family & Friends Will Love With the holidays just around the corner, now is the perfect time to snag one of these amazing smart home devices. Read More you can give, but there’s more to cover. Keep in mind that there are several competing standards for syncing all your home automation gadgets together.

Note that if you purchase a Smart Hub, make sure it’s compatible with all your smart home devices. The connection standards include openHAB, WiFi, Z-Wave, Apple’s HomeKit, and ZigBee. If you’re unfamiliar with the subject, check out which Smart Hub is right for you Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? For a while, people thought of the idea as nothing more than a gimmick, but recent product releases have shown that smart home automation is starting to live up to its promises. Read More .

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Amazon Echo - Black Amazon Echo - Black Plays all your music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice Buy Now At Amazon $179.99

Right now, the hottest product in home automation is the Amazon Echo Amazon Echo Review and Giveaway Amazon Echo Review and Giveaway Amazon’s Echo offers a unique integration between voice recognition, personal assistant, home automation controls, and audio playback features for $179.99. Does the Echo break into new ground or can you do better elsewhere? Read More . I reviewed it myself and was extremely impressed by the Echo’s Smart Home flexibility How Amazon Echo Can Make Your Home A Smart Home How Amazon Echo Can Make Your Home A Smart Home Smart home tech is still in its early days, but a new product from Amazon called "Echo" may help bring it into the mainstream. Read More and promise for future innovation (but not with its added NSA compatibility Tomorrow's Surveillance: Four Technologies The NSA Will Use to Spy on You - Soon Tomorrow's Surveillance: Four Technologies The NSA Will Use to Spy on You - Soon Surveillance is always on the cutting edge of technology. Here are four technologies that will be used to violate your privacy over the next few years. Read More ).

  • Amazon Echo: It’s the best Smart Hub product around because of its sophisticated voice recognition and compatibility with multiple Smart Home products. ($180 via Amazon)
  • Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Gen: It’s the best smart thermostat around and it integrates with the Echo. ($249 via Amazon)
  • Samsung SmartThings Hub: Samsung managed to simplify the connection standards for Smart Hubs. It’s a one-stop-shop device for all things Smart Home. ($99 via Amazon)
  • Philips Hue Starter Kit, 2nd Gen: It’s the best Smart Home lighting system out there. ($80 via Amazon)
  • LIFX White 800 A19 Smart Lights: It’s a lower-cost alternative to Philips Hue. ($40 via Amazon)

Wearable Technology Gifts

There’s all kinds of wearable tech out there, but as far as consumer-friendly smartwatches are concerned, there are three main categories: fitness trackers, personal assistants, and hybrids between two.

newsletter-apple-watch-giveaway

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For the most part, people tend to buy fitness trackers and then forget them after the novelty wears off. Personal assistants provide a little extra utility, but even so, most people forget they’re even there. Hybrid devices are where it’s at.

We think the Apple Watch does it all How The Apple Watch Won Me Over How The Apple Watch Won Me Over When Apple announced their latest gadget, I wasn't entirely impressed. I ignored the hype, disregarded the reviews, and didn't pre-order one for myself. Obviously, I caved. Read More  and our Apple Watch review Apple Watch Review & Giveaway Apple Watch Review & Giveaway The new Apple thing is finally out, but everyone was talking about the Apple Watch long before it was officially announced. Starting at $349 - we take a look, and have TWO to give away! Read More  was positive. It combines a sophisticated biometric sensor with a halfway-decent personal assistant in Siri. On the other hand, the Android Wear series of devices (which Android Wear smartwatch is best? Which Android Wear Smartwatch Is Best For You? Which Android Wear Smartwatch Is Best For You? In the market for an Android Wear smartwatch? Let's compare all the options available now and make the decision easy. Read More ) provides superior personal assistant software but relatively weak health tracking sensors.

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Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch with Heart Rate Monitor, Black Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch with Heart Rate Monitor, Black Built-in GPS keeps track of your ride, run or hike measuring your speed, distance and route Buy Now At Amazon $439.00

If you’re a fitness nut, I recommend either the Basis Peak Basis Peak Review and Giveaway: A Great But Flawed Fitness Wearable Basis Peak Review and Giveaway: A Great But Flawed Fitness Wearable Read More  (for the lazy, which provides auto-magic biometric readings) or the Polar V800 Multisport Health Tracker Polar V650 and V800 Fitness Trackers Review and Giveaway Polar V650 and V800 Fitness Trackers Review and Giveaway Polar’s two latest fitness wearables cater to hard-core fitness enthusiasts in two categories: triathletes and bicycling nuts. Read More  (for hardcore fitness nuts).

Which Techie Gift Is the Best?

With Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping 6 Amazon Prime Benefits You Might Be Ignoring Right Now 6 Amazon Prime Benefits You Might Be Ignoring Right Now Scratch the surface. Amazon Prime has so many more benefits that people have forgotten about or simply don't realize exist. Read More , you can still get some of the sharpest bleeding-edge technology around before Christmas! My personal recommendation — for almost anyone — is Google Cardboard. It’s still an unheard of technology and it’s the most inexpensive in the tech world. Give it a shot, whether you’ve heard of it before or not.

Did any of these gifts catch your eye? What other cutting-edge gift ideas can you think of? Tell us in the comments below!

Image Credits:christmas tree by Petr Vaclavek via Shutterstock

  1. David Keldsen
    December 14, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Pebble should always be listed as a contender for smartwatch; it's outside of the fray of "Android vs. iOS" and yet works with both. Remarkable.

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