Unusual but Fun Tech Ideas for 2015


Well, it’s the week of the big sales, and many of us are planning to buy that special someone a special something. I figured I’d join my peers and point to some tech ideas you may not have thought of.  I’ve set a budget limit of $250 for this stuff because I figure if someone wants something more expensive than that, they can buy it for themselves (also, getting it wrong for under $250 is a lot less painful than over $250). Be aware that some of these prices are good this week only, so don’t drag your feet if something hits your fancy.  

Here are my choices in no particular order:

Rufus Labs Cuff:  This is for the tech lover on your list that really likes to make fun of Apple users.   The Rufus Labs Cuff is to the Apple watch what the Hummer is to a Miata.  For those that truly believe size matters, this is the mother of all smartwatches.  It has a whopping 3.2” screen, around the size of the original iPhone, and it runs Android apps with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. You can take and make calls on it, too. Basically, it’s a remote screen for your phone.  Good for runners or folks that just want to make fun of how small the Apple Watch is in comparison.   Currently on special for $250

NVIDIA Shied Tablet:  Arguably the most powerful tablet in its price range, the NVIDIA Shield Tablet was designed for gaming. That means better performance, better speakers, a very low latency game controller option, best pen support in its class (pen and controller are extra) and a connection to NVIDIA’s Gaming Service GeForce Now.  Basically, this is Netflix for PC games. With this tablet you can play PC games wherever the tablet goes, as long as you can get a good Wi-Fi signal.   Nice value for $200.  

Amazon Echo:  Nothing says the future like a voice enabled home automation platform.  Out of the box, this thing will allow you to play your music, build a shopping list, and even shop using voice command.  However, updates and a little work will result in the Echo controlling your home automation and air-conditioning system as well.   The only annoying/fascinating thing is that the TV commercials for the device often cause Echo to follow the commands coming from the TV.  It is a ton of fun you can move this experience around the house with Amazon’s Fire TV set top box.   Amazon Echo is $179 and the new Amazon Fire TV HD is $99. 

Annova Precision Cooker:  For the smartphone-using cook in your life.  This device connects to the Smartphone via an app and assures that you can cook anything that can be boiled perfectly (and you’d be surprised how much you can boil).   This works with both Android and iOS devices and could allow you to cook the perfect dinner for that certain someone.  If your spouse does the cooking, this is the device that could really give back, particularly if they tend to overcook things.   At $180 is it an inexpensive way to improve your cooking skill.

Polaroid Zip Picture Printer:  For folks that really don’t get digital yet, but have a smartphone, this little printer turns your Smartphone into a Polaroid camera.  Using either Bluetooth or NFC (newer phones you can just tap the printer to connect it) this creates a nice printed picture from that snapshot you just took.  Think if it as a nice way to bridge the old with the new and get instant gratification or just share a picture without having to email it to anyone.  It is $130. 

Kangaroo Mobile Desktop: For those that want to carry a PC in their pocket, there is the Kangaroo Mobile Desktop.  Granted, you’ll still need to find a keyboard and a mouse, but think of this as an emergency PC when you go on vacation and want to leave your laptop at home and live off a tablet.  Everything doesn’t run off a tablet, so when you need a PC app, just plug this little device in and suddenly your PC came with you.   At $99 this is in line with a good battery extender and it is both tiny and light. 

Parrot MiniDrone Jumping Sumo:  Drones are a ton of fun, but with the FAA involved and concerns about folks using them to look in windows, maybe the flying kind are a bit too risky.  The Parrot MiniDrone Jumping Sumo is a rolling drone that can jump up and scare the heck out of the family pet right before he or she turns it into a chew toy (so I don’t recommend that).  This is a ton of fun and its big wheels go over most obstacles.  The Parrot is a great starter drone that won’t come down on anyone’s head painfully or freak out the FAA.  Priced at $122.50 and yes it does have a camera. 

Plantronics Backbeat Pro:  We all like a little music and the best headphone I tested last year was the Plantronics Backbeat Pro.  These noise cancelling headphones have a built in microphone if you need to take calls.  They’re attractive and light with full controls for volume, pause, play, answer, and hang-up on the headphones, so can you can use them for calls and music.  For the traveler in your life they are a reasonable $185.   (I found them for $149 on Amazon this week).  

SMS Audio BioSport Earbuds.  If you are serious about exercise, heart rate is very important.  It turns out one of the most accurate places to pull heart rate is your ear, so these ear buds gauge your heartrate while they play tunes.  They use technology from Intel and have a pretty decent sound.   At $70, they won’t break the bank, either.

Wrapping Up:

From a computer in your pocket to headphones that take your heartbeat to a drone that doesn’t freak out the FAA is a lot of breadth.  But everything currently is below $250, at least this week, and you may find even better prices like I did with the Backbeat Pro headphones from Plantronics. Enjoy shopping and try not to think about your next credit card bill.  

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere
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President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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