It seems like every year is a big year for the gadget. But this year is apparently even bigger. The excitement began back in January when we saw some incredible products on show at CES. Now some of those products have made it to market, and we’re enjoying the results. The question now is which tech gifts are on everybody’s list this year as we approach the holiday season?
As always the competition is ramping up, and companies are trying to put their best foot forward. So in amongst all the noise, what are this year’s must-have gadgets for him and for her?
A few years back we all thought that Pebble would be the company to go up against the mighty Apple in this space. But it hasn’t worked out quite that way. Instead, we’ve seen the rise of another company, Fitbit, trying to get in on the act. Fitbit’s target market is the lower end of the market. Their objective is to make wearables accessible by all, including on price.
In 2016, their angle is fitness. They’re creating watches that monitor things like heart rate, distance travelled and calories burned. On top of that, the Fitbit devices also allow you to receive texts to your wrist at a glance. Whether people will like the relatively cheap build quality remains to be seen. But being just under £100/$123 can they complain?
A Replacement For Siri
Artificial intelligence is going to become big business. In fact, if people like Google’s Director of Engineering are to be believed, it’s going to transform life as we know it. Today AI is in a good place, and now we finally have a replacement for Siri, by Amazon of all people. Siri was first introduced over five years ago now. And when it came out, it was fun, but hopelessly brittle if you wanted to ask it anything complicated. Today’s AI is vastly more powerful, thanks mainly to all the data that’s been collected through the internet and other devices. Amazon has decided to bring this AI into the home. But instead of putting it on a phone or a watch, they’ve put it in a sort of standing speaker. It’s called the Amazon Echo, and it’s doing the rounds on TV advertising right now. It’s an elegant looking device that you can ask questions in natural language. On first impressions, it seems a little gimmicky. But the reviews so far have been overwhelmingly positive. Is this something that could really work?
You can ask you echo what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. You can also ask it what the traffic will be like on your way to work and to play your favourite music. And you do all this with just a voice command. The Echo also connected to smart devices in your home. If you happen to have smart lighting, you can ask echo to turn the lights off for you. No more having to dust off the Dorito crumbs from your chest, heave yourself off the couch and walk over to the switch.
The Echo comes in at around £150/$184.
Virtual Reality Headsets Just Went Viral
Virtual reality is another one of those technologies that remind us that we’re already living in the Star Trek universe. This year VR officially launched, with Google, Facebook, Samsung and HTC all getting in on the act. What’s more, consumers have got a big choice of what kind of VR headset they want. Do you want something that’ll just do the job? If so, the Samsung Gear VR will do the job at around £50/$62. Or do you want something where you can play the latest titles in high fidelity? If so, you might want to go for the Facebook’s Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. Prices for these range between £450/$555 and £600/$740.
Be warned, though, these are the first iteration of VR products that we’ve seen. As such, they haven’t yet had time to mature into fully fledged, mature products. Expect glitches and problems. With that said, we’re living in exciting times. With VR, humans can for the first time live in virtual worlds with all the sights and sounds that accompany them.
The New Binge Watching Game-Changer
It was only a handful of years ago when people boasted about binge watching their “box sets.” The DVD box set was the way that most of us consumed our favourite series and dramas. But with the march of technology, that’s all changed. New streaming business models have meant that we can binge watch our favourite content, all with the help of a simple stick that plugs into our TV. Amazon again is leading the charge. But there are other services like Now TV and even Chromecast that are competing in the space. Finally, we can escape the banality of regular TV and just get to the good stuff. Game of Thrones anyone?
Bluetooth Speakers That Look Like Owls
If you’re struggling to find tech gifts for her this season, Bluetooth speakers might be the answer to your prayers. Bluetooth speakers have developed enormously this year. They’re no longer built inside sleek, deliberately techie shells. Now they come in all sorts of designs specifically with her in mind. This type of thing always happens when a technology matures. The stuff that actually makes the technology work becomes a sideshow. Suddenly the main event is in the design of the speakers themselves and how appealing they are. This year, we’ve seen lots of funky designs, specifically targeting women. You can pick up a high-quality Bluetooth speaker for around £130.
A High-Tech Safety Net For Your Home
It was only a matter of time before the insides of our homes got their own security camera systems. If you’ve always loved the idea of monitoring your home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you’ve got more choice than ever before. For instance, companies like Nest are releasing cameras that you can set up in your home that connect to your other devices. The principle is simple really. Plug the devices into the wall, connect them to your WiFi and then control them from your phone or computer. You can watch live streams of your home in real-time, get alerts if motion is detected and play alarms if you see an intruder. Even stranger, you can actually talk to intruders through speakers on Nest devices and politely ask them not to steal all your stuff.
Of course, the main benefit of these devices is for pet owners with needy pets. If you’ve got a pooch who just can’t stand to be without you, you can talk to them while you’re out at work. Hopefully, that’ll stop them from tearing up your house in distress.
Robots That Do The Chores
This year we saw a robot that had learned how to fold clothes. It was an impressive feat and showed just how much robot technology had improved. Giving a robot the level of dexterity needed to fold clothes was unthinkable in the past. But today it’s happening, and we’ll probably see consumer versions soon.
Meanwhile, we’ll have to make do with less impressive, but still helpful robot vacuums. This year we’re likely to see more robot vacuums being bought as Christmas gifts. And why not? The iRobot from Roomba has a bunch of useful features designed to make domestic life more blissful. It comes with tech that helps it avoid falling down the stairs. And you can also programme it to do the cleaning while you’re out of the house. It’ll set you back a bit, though. These are selling for £650/$800 plus right now.
Roomba isn’t the only cleaning bot in town – contrary to popular opinion. There’s another robot that has been doing the rounds too. It’s called the Grillbot. And it’s makers claim that it will automatically clean your grill, like the iRobot, without you having to use any elbow grease. When you think about it, the Grillbot is a clever product. Most people can stomach vacuuming. It’s boring, but at least it isn’t difficult, especially if you go cordless. But there’s no way to make cleaning the grill easy. This year, we’re likely to see many happy people getting Grillbots and finally freeing them from the chore of scrubbing. It’s a gift for dads everywhere – and relatively cheap too. You can pick one of these up for around £55/$68.
What’s the purpose of a Bluetooth toothbrush, other than to turn your teeth blue? Nobody’s quite sure. But if you want a toothbrush that connects wirelessly to your other devices this year, Oral-B has made one.
Curvy TVs With Smart Tech
There’s a debate raging right now in the tech community concerning whether curved TVs are really worth it? Do they even make sense? Well, did Furbies make sense? Did Pokemon Go make sense? If you want to splash out on a curved TV, for the love of the fact that it’s curved, why not? It’s your holiday season.
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