2014 Holiday Gift Guide

IEEE Spectrum's annual roundup of gifts for techies

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  1. Digital Bolex D16

    Many filmmakers and documentarians of the last century relied on Bolex film cameras—relatively rugged, lightweight, and powered by a hand-wound spring, they were ideal for shooting in the field. Now, 21st-century cinematographers can shoot with a digital version of the Bolex, the D16, which goes for US $3,300 or $3,600 (depending on the size of its internal solid-state drive). The camera is designed to be compatible with vintage Super 16 and 16-mm lenses, and instead of a more typical CMOS image sensor, it uses a charge-­coupled-device (CCD) sensor, which the makers claim gives videos a more filmlike feel. —Stephen Cass

  2. Rolling Spider

    This miniature drone by Parrot takes many of the automatic stabilization features found on Parrot’s larger flying machines, such as the AR Drone, and squeezes them into a tiny package. Four rotors, a ground-speed monitoring camera, an ultrasonic range finder, and a barometric altimeter all allow the $130 Rolling Spider to zoom around and hover while you control it via a smartphone app. —S.C.

  3. XL741

    A follow-on to the Three Fives kit that IEEE Spectrum featured in February 2014, this is a giant version of the ubiquitous and influential Fairchild Semiconductor μA741 operational amplifier. Made from discrete components, the $35 XL741 is based directly on the design for the original μA741. For many circuits, the XL741 should work as a drop-in replacement—allowing you to turn that noninverting amplifier or voltage follower into a fun conversation piece! —S.C.

  4. Seek Thermal Smartphone Camera

    This $200 plug-in for iPhone or Android smartphones is a true thermal infrared video camera. Unlike many camcorders that feature infrared night vision, the Seek Thermal camera works in bright light as well as in the dark, and it can tell users the temperature of any object seen on screen within about a degree Celsius. In addition to security uses, this can be handy for a cook checking to see if a barbecue is cooking evenly, a plumber searching for a pipe, or an electrical engineer hunting for hot spots on a motherboard. An “unboxed” version of the sensor is expected to be released next year for makers wishing to incorporate thermal vision into their designs. —S.C.

  5. V.360 HD Camera

    Have you ever taken a vacation video only to miss something exciting that happened out of the frame? Or ended up turning around several times on the spot in the name of capturing a perfect panorama? These are no longer problems with the V.360 HD camera, which captures a continuous 360-degree view of the world around it at a resolution of 6480 by 1080. The camera is also waterproof, and it comes with software that allows it to detect motion or stream video remotely. The price was still to be determined at press time, but it’s likely to be under $500 (Editors note: the V.360's price has since been announced as $399) —S.C.

  6. PonoPlayer

    Pocketable high-definition music systems aren’t for everybody, but a few companies are trying to make them at least affordable to everybody. The highest-profile among these is by Pono, a company started by rocker Neil Young. The result is the $400 PonoPlayer, which can play music files at sampling rates of up to 192 kilohertz and with samples up to 24 bits long. (For comparison, the popular AAC media format used by Apple devices, among others, samples at a maximum rate of 96 kHz.) Unfortunately, Pono won’t start shipping units until January 2015, but you can get someone a preorder now. —Glenn Zorpette

  7. ScanSnap iX100

    I’ve been a fan of Fujitsu’s line of document scanners since the company introduced its first desktop scanner in 2009: Being able to easily turn paper into searchable PDFs on my laptop has dramatically reduced my office storage requirements. Now, with the iX100, a lightweight $200 battery-powered wireless version that can work with a smartphone, you can take a lot of that desktop functionality on the road. Convert and toss conference fliers in your hotel room, or scan expense receipts on the plane home. —S.C.

  8. Muse

    Feeling stressed? InteraXon’s $300 Muse might help. The headband contains seven EEG sensors that detect the user’s brain waves—quite a step up from products released a few years ago that made a virtue of using a single electrode to keep costs down. A paired smartphone app tracks the production of alpha waves, which are associated with relaxation, and guides the user through short meditative exercises. InteraXon says the app’s feedback will let users cultivate calm in a hectic world. —Eliza Strickland

This article was updated on 04 December 2014.

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