Stay smart and charged up year-round with new gear for the New Year
Never again have that empty feeling when you run out of your favorite snack, with Weplenish ($39.99, Amazon). This amazing smart endless snack dispenser takes count of your snacks and automatically re-orders them when the container is running low. Weplenish also holds your favorite k-cup brands like Starbucks, Green Mountain, Nespresso, Dunkin Donut etc., and is compatible with a variety of snacks like KIND Bars, RXBARs, GoMacro Bars, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, and Keebler’s Cookie Variety Pack.
Smells like millennial spirit
Add some atmosphere to your living or work space with Moodo, the first smart aroma diffuser. This room-freshening device sends scents into air with the touch of a button, using an app on your phone, or on the device itself. You can even link it to Alexa or Google Home and control the fragrance with voice commands. Starter packs ($189, with special sale pricing up to 40 percent off) include one aroma diffuser and three scent families. Refill capsule collections are priced at $17.94 to $29.90.
If you love to be plugged in, but you hate the tangle of cables on your desk or nightstand, you will love the Cable Wrangler ($19.99). Created by Austin-cool Silk, makers of a variety of unique smartphone cases, wallets and accessories, this upholstered magnetic mound will hold her cables with a satisfying “click.” For non-metal cables, the holder features tiny metal collars to place around the necks of those pesky errant cables.
Get your headset in the game
Get into the game with the Audio Technica ATH-PG1 ($129), a headset for serious gamers with immersive audio that makes you feel inside the action. The 44 mm drivers provide powerful, lively sound specially tuned to accentuate all the sonic detail of the gaming environment. The closed-back, lightweight headset stays on snuggly with complete comfort, allowing extended play. The ATH-PG1 also comes equipped with a flexible, 6″ boom microphone for live-sounding in-game voice communication with other gamers, or you can use the headset for everyday media listening, and even for calls and controlling audio and video on smartphones and other portable devices. Compatible with PS4, iPad, iPhone, laptops, PCs, and other gaming devices with standard 3.5mm TRRS connector.
If the new era of tech has got you thinking, then The Fourth Age (Atria Books, $23.25 in hardcover, Amazon), Byron Reese’s thoughtful new book about smart robots, conscious computers and the future of humanity will give you some virtually real intelligence to ponder. Reese, the CEO and publisher of the technology research company Gigaom, offers this essential reading for anyone who enjoys probing the deeper questions about how tech has revolutionized our society and our very selves. The Fourth Age will make you wonder, and it will make you smarter for your next dinner party convo, or online chat.
Hit the Hi-Fi Bottle
Remember the boom boxes of yesteryore, balanced on a shoulder and pumping out tunes people could hear a block away? The go-anywhere compact bottle-sized BoomBottle MM ($129.99) has captured that grand, satisfying surround-sound acoustics of the famed traveling stereo with its two 12W speakers and two 45mm passive radiators, providing a full-range of crisp highs and deep bass tones, all situated in an IP67 rated dust and waterproof enclosure. This rugged, waterproof wireless speaker can travel anywhere, and it even has a MagicMount magnetic base to keep it stuck to metal surfaces. Available at Costco and other retailers.
What’s old is new again
Kids of all ages will enjoy a trip in the way-back machine via Bandai Namco Flashback Blast ($18.88, Walmart). This collection of old-school classics, such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga, Galaxian, Mappy, Sky Kid The Tower of Druaga and Xevious, will take you back to when video games were simple and pixelated. The game set includes a wireless controller and HDMI dongle that easily connects wirelessly to your HD TV, for hours of timeless fun.
The weather is hot, the pool is cool, the kids are out of school. Here’s what you need indoors and outdoors, for fun in the sun and summer entertaining.
Glide through summer
Cruise through the neighborhood, head to the pool, or coast over to your BFF’s house, and arrive like a rock star on the Razor Hovertrax DLX 2.0. This ultimate Nirvana-on-wheels hoverboard features a self-balancing deck that makes it easy to mount and maneuver, and the anti-slip rubber traction platform lets you stay in control for a smooth and easy ride. The exotic finishes and multi-color LED lights will make your entrance memorable, and the 60-minute extended-life battery will keep you going for the long haul. The powerful but silent motor can move you at up to 9 miles per hour, and the shatter-resistant polymer frame and fender bumper keeps your board looking sweet ride after ride.
The bike paths beckon over summer break, and the serious cycling kid will love power peddling through the neighborhood or catching some air on an Islabike, the Rolls Royce of specialized bikes for young riders.
This high-end brand of bikes, created by renowned British bicycle designer Isla Rowntree, respects the young rider with quality construction and attention to detail never before seen in a child’s bike line – down to the option of the child’s name embossed on the frame.
Built as light as possible and ergonomically sized for children’s bodies, Islabikes fit and feel right for kids. As youngsters in their formative years hone their skills, the Isla design gives them the advantages of a high-performance bike, preparing them for the next level of competitive riding, or recreational cycling at its finest.
Do Blow It
Headed to the beach but hate the sand? Blow it off with Canless Air ($149.95). This powerful spray-can sized blower will blast the dust or sand out of crevices where nobody wants it – your keyboard, electronics, car vents – wherever tiny bits if stuff accumulates where it shouldn’t. Unlike those old-fashioned cans of compressed air, Canless Air utilizes green technology to blow over 260 mph of natural air, safely and cost-effectively, with one unit replacing 1,000 cans of traditional canned air. Check out the video on how it works.
The only thing better than a cold frothy beer on a hot summer day is a cold frothy beer poured from your very own vat, a la a GrowlerWerks uKeg. This pressurized mini-keg keeps draft beer fresh and carbonated for two weeks or more, and it can travel from the brewery to the beach, BBQ, campfire, duck blind, fishing boat, or wherever you want to take it, with a tap lock to prevent leakage and a durable insulated stainless-steel construction engineered to last. The uKeg features an easy-to-use regulator cap that provides a vacuum seal with the help of a C02 cartridge, and its stylish design is attractive enough that it can be seated at the dining room table.
The latest in compact tripods comes loaded with features, including a selfie stick
The MeFOTO Road Trip Air tripod with built-in selfie stick is a great option for serious photographers that want a steady shot but need portability and options for a full on SLR camera or a smart phone camera, to adapt to the shooting situation.
The tripod features a convenient click-and-lock system for the legs and center column. It took a few minutes to figure it out, but with a firm twist each leg section locks in place.
The ball head and pan head can also be locked or loosen to be fluid. A full-size SLR camera or other small or medium camera with a bottom screw hole can be easily mounted on and removed from the platform using the universal quick release plate.
For mobile shooting, with a twist of the collar and a knob at the bottom of the telescoping center pole, the selfie stick slides out and can be used as a mount for a smart phone with a digital remote.
The center column is also reversible using a retractable weight hook at the bottom of the center column, so that the tripod can be placed ideally for close-up photography and shooting difficult-to-reach objects.
The tripod is available in a variety of chic colors and it also comes with a super nifty and sturdy carry bag with heavy-duty dual straps and a impressively large slide lock.
For a compact Tripod system, the Road Trip Air is a kit with a lot of versatility and features. While it folds up relatively small, it is still a bit weighty at 2 1/2 pounds, so it will fit in a backpack, but it may be more weight than you want to carry if you’re climbing Everest.
The MePhoto Road Trip Air is available on Amazon or at http://www.mefoto.com/ for $175.
Coding Jam is the video game-like system that teaches kids to code while they play
The other day my son commanded Google Home to play a custom playlist he had created on a Pandora. Two things occurred to me about this. First, wow. The digitally connected future vision of the The Jetsons was coming true; and then, my more mundane thought was, “That music is awful. My 10-year-old child could write better arrangements,” and thanks to Osmo, he can.
Like many other kids who love video games, my son craves leveling up and learning how to improve his skills, and Osmo has harnessed this excitement in a new technology experience, Coding Jam, that allows kids to create music through basic coding. Using colored building blocks and a system that interacts with an iPad or iPhone, kids can arrange and play musical notes in strings and sequences to write…
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Kids of all ages get excited about the latest electronics, and tech-savvy parents know that sharing in their kid’s enthusiasm and wonder for technology is an excellent way to bond. When kids have reached their screen time limit, it’s time to get real with physical games and toys that engage them the old-fashioned way. For every child on your list, here are 10 great gifts that help kids grow in their understanding of technology, develop their creative skills and encourage connection with others.
Two hit wonder
For those of us of a certain age who remember the rock-em-sock-em toy robots, whose heads popped off with a firm jab to the jaw, there’s a new heavyweight in the ring. Big Robot Data Rate and Tenderizer Remote Control Fighting Robots are eight-inch fighting machines with Innovative Motion Control Technology so that each user can steer, maneuver and punch using a handheld nun-chuck controller. The trash talking robots also feature quote damage tracking LEDs and other effects to keep the match fun and exciting. Ages 4 and up. $59.99 each or $99 for two-pack. Available at Toys R Us.
The sky (and imagination) is the limit
Portal masters can take their creativity to the outer limits with Skylanders Imaginators, the latest iteration of the popular Skylanders video console game franchise with new capabilities that empower players to unleash their imaginations and bring their creations to life in an all-new adventure with puzzles, battles, a compelling storyline and new lineup of heroes and villains. Take the fun to another dimension with the Skylanders free Creator mobile app which allows kids to design and print out their own unique playable 3D printed figure. Ages 8 and up. Skylanders Imaginators Starter pack includes two Sensei characters, one Creation Crystal, Portal of Power and game disc available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 1, Xbox 360 and WiiU. The Starter Pack is available for $39.99 at Toys R US, Target, Wal-Mart and all major retailers. Custom 3D printed figure available for $49.99.
Crack the code
Dick Tracy decoder rings of yesteryear were child’s play. Today’s coding toys teach real world computer coding skills, such as Monster, an intelligent iPad game by Osmo that helps budding computer developers master AI technology and harness their creativity to animate physical drawings, with the help of Mo the Monster, who comes to life to interact with children’s drawings. The Osmo Monster Starter Kit includes an iPad stand, iPad camera reflector, and two sets of game pieces with alphabet letter tile sets and wood tangram shapes.
Once kids get the hang of coding, they can expand their talents with additional Osmo learning tools, like the Coding game that uses hands-on physical blocks to control Awbie, a playful character that kids use coding skills to direct on strawberry-munching adventure. Starter kit $74.99, Coding game $49. Ages 6 to 10. Available at www.playosmo.com.
Sometimes kids don’t listen, and then sometimes they listen to much, by way of earphones with the volume turned up too loud, which can be especially harmful to hearing when using low-end earphones that come with electronic devices. Etymotic’s ETY•Kids Safe-Listening Earphones are engineered to protect young ears by sealing off ambient noise so kids are not tempted to crank up the volume to unsafe levels. The earphones’ s high quality, clear playback is safe for listening for up to eight hours (or four hours at the highest volume levels), so parents can rest easy, and kids can experience their music, games and movies as they were meant to be heard. $39.99, etymotic.com. Ages 5 and up.
Smart and cool phone
When it’s time for that first phone, kids want the coolest bone, but parents don’t want to outlay a chunk of cash for a device that might get lost or broken. VeryKool smart phones fill the bill for kids who want a feature-filled phone of their very own – with a front- and rear-facing camera and lots of multitasking abilities, and parents will love its affordable price. The VeryKool Fusion SL4500 and the Jet SL5009 are available for $109.00, and the line includes several models under $75. No contracts are required, and the phones will work with every GSM carrier across the US including AT&T, T-Mobile, Tracfone, etc., (Note, VeryKool phones are not compatible CDMA networks like Verizon or Sprint) Ages 10 and up. Available on Amazon.
Once kids have their very own phone, they want to protect and individualize it with a cool case. Ballistic Case Company has launched a line of protective, sleek cases in limited edition colors that protect phones from dust, bumps and dings and will help kids distinguish their phone from their friends’ phones. The lightweight and durable Jewel Series, Spark and Neon editions offer reinforced silicone corners and is engineered with six-sided drop protection technology. The Neon collection boasts bright hues that even glow in the dark, so they are easy to find in a backpack. Ages 10 and up. .$20 to $30, available at www.goballisticcase.com.
A ton of bricks
Kids love LEGOS, and now they can combine their favorite brick building activity with their affinity for video games with LEGO Dimensions. To begin the adventure, kids build the minifigure heroes and then assemble bricks into the LEGO Gateway, which they place onto the LEGO Toy Pad. The game expands as kids collect more mini figures, vehicles and gadgets and go to new levels with Expansion Packs, that call up the likes of Fantastic Beasts, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Harry Potter and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, making the game completely customizable and infinitely expandable. Ages 7-14. The Starter Pack is available for $79.99 at Target, Toys R Us, GameStop, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon. Additional expansion packs range from $11.99 – $49.99.
Light up the little ladies on your gift list with Gemmies the next evolution of 3D beading craft. With a click and connect process using elastic rings, kids can design crystal creations, from sparkling jewelry to flowers and tiny toy animals. The intuitive design templates use a repetitive pattern that lets kids develop their cognitive abilities and progress to designing their own creations. The kits come with a storage Design Studio with a light up pedestal to display creations. Ages 6 and up. $24.99. Available at Target or www.makegemmies.com.
Puzzle me this
For families on the road, take a break from mobile video games for some real, tactile interaction with a travel puzzle that engages kids in creative play while helping them to build an inner sense of the relationships between forms and colors. Bella Luna’s Magnetic Tiles Indian Squares puzzle comes packaged in a handy 8×8 metal storage box that doubles as a play surface with 36 magnetitic birch wood pieces enclosed. All ages, from children to adults, will enjoy coming up with beautiful designs and geometric forms. $39.95, ages 3 and up. Available at www.Bellalunatoys.com.
PlayMG, a smartphone-ish Wi-Fi Android app gaming system for kids, is just the ticket for parents whose children always ask if they can play on Mom or Dad’s phone. The sleek design, feel and weight of this handheld device is similar to leading smartphones, so kids won’t know the difference, except this device does not have a phone feature.
For sophisticated very early adopters, i.e., kids as soon as they are able to hold a cell phone, those silly mock smartphones are no match. These savvy tech toddlers know by the kiddie colors and light-weight plasticy feel that those made-for-children devices are toys. PlayMG on the other hand, with its 4” touchscreen, front-facing camera, and stereo headset jack would pass as the real deal even to an adult; in fact, its styling is superior to many authentic smartphones out there.
The obvious main advantage of the PlayMG over a true smartphone is that there are no data charges and kids can’t rack up high phone bills; but that does not mean a child can not incur charges. As with all Android devices, some downloads are free and other apps and media cost money, which can be paid with a few taps on the device. To help prevent this, PlayMG created the MG Family Collaboration System which includes a $10 offer when you by the system from SpendSmartTM prepaid MasterCard®. Other features include the “Digital Wallet” and “Remote Trust” notification functions so that parents can oversee what kids are spending.
Because the ICS 4.0 system operates on Wi-Fi, there are not data charges, but you do need to connect to a network to access certain games and media. While you do have to either find a free hot spot or otherwise get a subscribe to a carrier to get Wi-Fi service, with PlayMG there are no monthly charges or expensive cartridge games to buy.
As a bonus, several top games come pre-loaded on the device, including $10 worth of top EA Mobile games ‘Need for Speed Hot Pursuit’ and ‘NBA JAM’ preloade, eight Com2uS popular game titles, Slice It, Swing Shot, Homerun Battle2, Tiny Farm, Tower, Defense, 9 Innings Baseball, Super Action Hero and Derby Days.
The only stand-out odd detail of PlayMG is its egg-like shape. It has two rounded handles at either end, with cut-outs presumably to thread with a lanyard or wrist strap. The disadvantage of this peculiar profile is that the device does not fit any existing cases on the market. The concern of course is that the device may break if dropped; and because of its slippery, smooth design, this is a real concern, especially in the hands of children.
Besides the awkward shape, the PlayMG is a welcome alternative to turning over a fully functional smartphone to a child; so next visit to a restaurant, long car ride, wait in the bank line, or wherever else bored kids nag to play a handheld video game, PlayMG is a great answer.
PlayMG is available at Target, Amazon and Toys R US. PlayMG Product (8GB) $159.99;
PlayMG Bundle w/ Charger (24GB) $149.99; PlayMG Bundle with Charger & Case (40GB)
Gift Ideas for Young Gadget Lovers
Topping the gift wish list for kids of all ages, are Swann’s new line of Easy-Fly Gyro Technology indoor remote controlled helicopters — Micro Lightning, Micro Hornet, Emergency Strike, Military Thunder and Missile Strike. Controlled by dual joystick controls, these choppers perform death-defying stunts and flight maneuvers with military precision, powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery. The remote control operates on six AA batteries. Ages 14 and up. $59. Fry’s Electronics, BrandSmart and other major retailers.
Why should grown-ups have all the fun with tablet technology? VTech’s InnoTab (ages 4 to 9. $79.99) lets kids read, learn and create with a rich collection of aps in a multi-function, touch screen tablet format. Includes e-books, MP3 Player, learning fames, Art Studio painting and drawing aps and a Photo Viewer/Editor and Video Player for pictures and videos transferred from a computer or direct from a VTech Kidizoom camera (ages 3-9. $39.99). Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart and other major retailers, and online at www.vtechkids.com
Headphones with Character
Be a super hero with the comic fan on your list by giving them Coloud Marvel Comics Headphones, branded with Marvel comic icons. These stylish quality sound headphones feature Coloud’s signature triangular plug, cable guard and comfort design. $40. www.coloud.com