Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

Each year, I look forward to two significant commercial events:  the ads during the Super Bowl and the December November October roll-out of things to buy for Christmas. With the Super Bowl ads, it isn’t about the products, but about the presentation. My Christmas thing is about the gadgets.

I don’t necessarily buy them–I give gift cards–but they are fun to look at. Back in the day, this meant marveling over the Mattel® Vacuform™ machine or Chatty Cathy™ doll, an 8-track tape player, or a color TV. Today, it means personal drones, surround-sound chairs, and robots that do everything but clean the dog kennel (which really should be at the top of someone’s development “to do” list).  

For those on your gift list not satisfied with their smartphone camera, there is the Jaunt VR Camera boasting 28 cameras mounted around the perimeter and on the top and bottom of a spaceship-like contraption.  Although it isn’t yet publicly advertised for sale (price is unknown), Wired magazine included it in its list of "15 Futuristic Gifts for the Super-Early Adopter".  For the more price-conscious shopper, there are high definition video recording sunglasses such as those offered by  Lorex and Hammacher Schlemmer. The perfect way to film any activity where your hands are otherwise occupied, such as skiing, sky-diving or surfing, or for the less adventurous, to film your road trip–literally. And while you use your sunglasses to film what is in front of you, the IRIS+ quadcopter (a drone fitted with a camera) can be programmed to shoot aerial views, or film you from behind using the “Follow Me” mode. 

In keeping with one of the trending items this year–speakers/sound systems–Hammacher Schlemmmer offers the Optimal Resonance Audiophile's Speakers ($60,000) that are designed to “deliver optimal sound quality” by, among other things, eliminating the cabinet and thus the unwanted sound that comes from the vibrations of sound bouncing off the cabinet walls. They look cool, but for that price, there must be more to the technology than just the absence of cabinets. For half that price, you can buy the Immersive Audiophile Pod ($32,000)–a semi-enclosed chair with built-in speakers that lets you “feel” the music. It looks like a giant beauty shop hair dryer (think Truvy’s beauty parlor in Steel Magnolias).  Contrast this with The Tranquility Pod that looks like a dog bed inside a big egg, but in fact is a temperature controlled waterbed covered with a memory-foam cushion. This pod is designed to exclude exterior noise while the built-in sound system generates “gentle vibrations and soothing sounds” ($30,000).  

If you’re into “pods,” check out the HI-MACS® Kitchen Pod–a self-contained portable kitchen that looks like a one- or two-person plastic submarine.  It has only a sink, stovetop and a couple of drawers, so doesn’t qualify as a fully functional kitchen, but if it can be closed with dirty dishes in the sink there is some appeal.

On a more practical level, particularly for those of us whose lives are filled with electronic devices, there are the “any device” charging docks, multi-device chargers, car chargers, bike-mount chargers, chargers contained in speakers, clock radios and phone cases, and even a four-device charging paper towel holder “topped with a decorative wine stopper.”  For the person on your list who is completely electronic-dependent but still wants to commune with nature (or whose greatest fear is losing electrical power in a storm), there are portable power stations with solar panels and hand cranks. There are even portable power supplies that not only charge your phones and tablets, but jump start your car without the need of a second vehicle.

For that special person on your list who has everything else, take a look at the Choc Creator V2  (who knew there was a V1?). As the name suggests, it is a 3D chocolate printer. At about $6200, it probably isn’t for everyone–certainly not chocoholics who might be reluctant to eat their fabulous creations–but it would definitely be a conversation piece.

While these items are all interesting, I think that my favorite toy is the Rapid Beverage Chiller/Cooler, a nifty little device that will chill a can of the beverage of your choice in 60 seconds or a 12-16 ounce bottled beverage in minutes. It looks simple to operate, doesn’t take much counter space and you only need to add ice. How great is that?

As for your four-legged friends and family members, our border collie wants (in her words) “AniFetchAutomaticBallLauncherandtheGoDogGoG3FetchMachinebecausetheythrowdifferentkindsofballsdiferentdistancesatreadmillLEDcollar(pink)achipactivateddogdooranyofthetrackingdevicesthatmonitoreverythingIdoincludingthePuppyTweetstagfromMattelthatsignalsyourcomputereverytimeIdoanythingandsendsatweettomyTwitterpage.  If you would let me have a Twitter page…”  Our pit bull wants a really big box of Milk Bones, some thermal socks, and rubber caps for the border collie’s teeth.  If anyone knows where I can get the last item, let me know.

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