In days gone by, cutting-edge technology would have been firmly out of most people’s reach. Big businesses with lots of money to spare would be able to part with colossal sums of money in order to chase the latest technological trends. Fortunately, these days we can all experience the latest in cutting-edge consumer technology — thanks in large part to Moore’s Law.
The diminishing cost of consumer electronics has seen innovation reach new highs over the past few years, with smart devices entering our homes at a phenomenal rate. No longer do you have to present the technophile in your life with yet another puzzle. Instead, this year surprise them with the gifts of the future, today.
Digital assistants first burst onto the scene when Apple first integrated Siri into the iPhone 4S in 2011. In the ensuing year’s we’ve seen Google’s offering blossom from Google Now into Google Assistant. The e-commerce giant Amazon even entered the game with their digital assistant Alexa, first introduced as part of Amazon’s now infamous Echo device.
Smart home assistants like the Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s HomePod are now household names. Many of these devices are wireless speakers with the digital assistant baked in. If you have a hankering for digital assistants that go beyond the mainstream devices, then look no further.
A minimalist sat-nav with Alexa built in so that you can drive distraction-free.
You may be thinking that an Alexa-enabled smart speaker isn’t all that innovative. However, it represents the first time that Sonos has integrated the assistant into one of their excellent wireless speakers.
Amazon’s latest addition to their Echo lineup features a screen to browse music lyrics, weather forecasts, and to-do lists. More importantly, it enables you to video call anyone entirely hands-free to your friends and family with an Echo device.
Robots & Robotics
If you grew up on a diet of Robocop and The Terminator, then you may have a less-than-positive view of robots. Fortunately the robots of today are a far cry from these dystopian visions. Equally, you may have an idea that all robots are large, expensive industrial units, like those that Boston Dynamics have in development.
However, there are robots that are a farsight more friendly and affordable than those aforementioned varieties. Manufacturers have gone out of their way to offer up wide varieties, catering to as many people as possible. From kid-friendly kits, to more advanced assistive robots, there’s something for everyone.
This build-your-own kit comes with with five servos, an infrared sensor, two LEDs and 397 parts that snap together. Using the companion app you can learn to code, while also making your newly built robot perform tricks and tasks.
A robot who develops a unique personality the longer you spend in its company, while still fitting neatly in the palm of your hand. Think of it as this generation’s Furby.
LEGO have survived the transition to a digital world by releasing products like this robot building kit. Once fully built, you can learn to code and program your robotic creation with help from the companion tablet app.
One of the most practical uses of robots to date — effortlessly keeping your home clean.
Rewind five years, and we would probably find it hard to imagine that smartphones have become quite as pervasive, social media is able to influence the real world, and we have network connected sensors built into our clothes.
As unlikely as it may have once seemed, technology is having an impact on the clothing of the future — and not just in the choice of fabrics. Household names like Nike and Under Armor even generated a lot of buzz around their smart clothing offerings at CES 2017, with many products coming to market towards the end of the year.
Snap Inc’s first foray into hardware toned down the intrusiveness of Google Glass, allowing you to record short videos and photos. You can then post directly to their ephemeral messaging app directly from the glasses.
Would you rather leave your phone at home next time you head out for a run, but still be able to track it? Well, now you can have both with UA’s record-equipped shoes which store up to five workouts and sync with their MapMyRun app via Bluetooth.
The time-honored gift gets a smart upgrade. The Sensoria socks sync with a companion app to track your runs and offer guidance to improve your performance.
Reaching for your touchscreen phone in the middle of winter can leave you with hands of ice. These touchscreen gloves let you use your device out in the cold, while keeping your hands toasty.
If the collective hysteria around Netflix’s Stranger Things is anything to go by, we are enamoured by the effects of nostalgia. Although technological progress has largely rendered older tech obsolete, many still hold a deep affection for the technology of the youth.
While producing exact replicas of tech from years gone by would be a foolhardy undertaking, brands have been quick to blend the old with the new. To everyone’s delight this has revived your old favorites and placed them firmly in the 21st century.
Blending the instant photo printing of their most successful cameras with a 10MP digital camera, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Unlike their older models the photo printing no longer requires ink, adding emphasis to the word instant.
Roland’s original TR-808 influenced the creation of hip-hop, trap, Miami bass and more besides. The new TR-08 is a smaller, lighter, and more affordable faithful recreation of the influential drum machine.
Before digital cameras, capturing a “Kodak moment” was the success story of any family vacation. Now you can capture that moment directly on your Kodak EKTRA Android smartphone, using either the 21MP main or 13MP front facing camera.
The vinyl resurgence took many people by surprise, although it’s brought a lot of joy to audiophiles who maintained a fondness of the warm, slightly crackly medium. Modern turntables now incorporate USB outputs, digital outputs, and software to record your beloved records direct to your computer.
Augmented & Mixed Reality
Virtual Reality was hyped as The Next Big Thing. However, slow development, high prices, and low demand have so far prevented its ascent into the mainstream. Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are having a more subtle (and possibly more realistic) impact.
If you were disappointed that the Google Glass pivoted to focus on industry, then you’ll be pleased that Optinvent has picked up where they left off. These Android-powered smart glasses come equipped with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, a 1200mAh battery, and a 5MP front facing camera.
Microsoft has been developing the Windows Mixed Reality platform since they launched the Hololens in 2016. In conjunction with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft launched the WMR platform, allowing third parties to design and manufacture their own headsets. WMR incorporates elements of VR that are able to interact with the real-world.
Become the Jedi you always knew you could be with Lenovo’s Star Wars AR game. The kit includes an AR headset, lightsaber controller, and tracking beacon. Use The Force (and the companion iOS/Android app) to immerse yourself in a galaxy far, far away.
Billed as a hands-free smartphone, these Android-powered glasses allow you to record and playback videos and pictures, manage your calendar, and even receive calls. These smart glasses are great for anyone that wants the benefits of a smartphone, but without having to spend their life staring down at a screen.
Hardware Upgrades & Peripherals
While shiny new products are great, some of the most exciting cutting edge technology comes from what’s inside our consumer electronics. It’s the developments in this field that have really propelled computing into the mainstream over the past few decades and allowed our smartphones to get ever more powerful.
This year, give the gift of upgrades and all their new-device benefit, without the new-device cost.
AMD’s Vega 64 makes the perfect graphics card update for any gamer that wants to indulge in some 4K or VR gaming. It’s also a worthwhile upgrade if you are looking for a graphics card to use in cryptocurrency mining.
Intel’s Core i9 range supersedes the well-received i7 CPUs, bringing with it performance enhancements and new features. The Core i9-7900X Processor offers 10 cores, 20 threads, and Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology.
AMD pulled out all the stops to stand as a serious competitor to Intel’s CPUs. The Threadripper CPU range ushers enterprise grade performance to consumer computing, without the premium price tag.
This memory card from SanDisk is one of the best performing cards around. With 400GB of storage space, 100MB/s read and 10MB/s write speed it is easily capable of handling 4K pictures and videos.
While most of our tech is designed for life on-the-go, many hard drives are still susceptible to drops, crashes, and water damage. That is not the case with the SE730, which is IP68 certified, has 250GB of storage space, and boasts transfer speeds of 500MB/s.
Which Techie Gift Will You Bestow?
If you’ve been struggling to find that one special gift for the technology lover in your life, then these gifts should help point you in the right direction. If your giftee has more specific interests like gaming, photography, or science fiction, then we might be able to help you out there too.
Have you tried any of these cutting-edge techie gifts? Will you be buying any of these for your family this year? Do you think we missed any? Let us know in the comments!