Holiday Gift Guide 2016

Our annual roundup of techie presents for every budget

4 min read

photo of tiny arcade
Photo: Aimee Lambes

Have you always wanted an old-school arcade game but were put off by the expense and size? The Tiny Arcade from TinyCircuits solves these problems by stuffing a processor, display, loudspeaker, battery, and controls into a cabinet small enough to sit in the palm of your hand, and at a cost of just US $60. The Tiny Arcade comes with three games built in, and a microSD slot allows you to download and play even more. It’s also Arduino compatible, so you can write and upload your own games to the Tiny Arcade via a USB connection.

  • Ember

    img of EmberPhoto: Ember

    Caffeine junkies, rejoice! The $150 Ember mug will keep your coffee at the ideal temperature for up to 2 hours, thanks to a whole lot of electronics packed into the base. Microprocessor-controlled heating elements keep the mug’s contents at the temperature you set, either by twisting the base or using a smartphone app via Bluetooth (which also lets you do things like define presets or program your name into the display). The mug is recharged by a coaster with an inductive element.

  • Maze

    photo of MazePhoto: Seedling

    For decades, people have enjoyed playing Labyrinth, a game in which two mechanical knobs are used to steer a marble around a wooden or plastic maze peppered with holes. Seedling has taken this idea into the 21st-century world of virtual reality with Maze. For $60, players get a traditional mechanical playing field, but with a selection of black blocks and a sheet that can be used to create new mazes. The cleverness really begins with the Google Cardboard–style virtual-reality viewer and accompanying app. You can photograph physical mazes created on the field and then automatically convert them into an explorable 3D environment that can be populated with additional threats, puzzles, and bonuses.

  • SRK

    photo of three SRKPhoto: Arcimoto

    If you’re looking for a fun, all-electric runabout that’s more like a souped-up motorbike than a car, then Arcimoto’s $11,900 SRK may be just the thing. The three-wheeled vehicle has a top speed of 129 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour) and can accelerate from zero to a little under 100 km/h (60 mph) in 7.5 seconds. The standard range is 113 km (70 miles), but an optional upgrade will bring that to almost 210 km. The lithium-ion batteries can be charged from 120- or 240-volt supplies, and the open roll cage can be fully enclosed with panels for drivers in colder climates.

  • nScope

    photo of nscopePhoto: Nick Marchuk

    This is one of those things I didn’t realize how badly I wanted until I saw it. Perfect for Makers, the $89 nScope is a combination function generator (variable saw and sine waves are available, as well as white noise and pulse width modulated signals), an oscilloscope with two analog and four digital channels with a 400-kilohertz sample rate (results are displayed via USB on a host computer), and a power supply with positive and negative 5-volt outputs. What’s really nice is that the whole thing is designed to fit onto a standard prototyping breadboard, which promises to make development and troubleshooting of any home-brew project a lot easier.

  • N-Strike Elite RC Drone

    photo of n-Strike Elite RC DronePhoto: Hasbro

    Judging by the number and variety of Nerf guns I’ve come across in the offices of tech startups, shooting foam darts at one another is one of those nominally-for-children-but-really-for-adults activities. So rule the developer pit with the remote-controlled $200 Nerf N-Strike Elite TerraScout Remote-Control Drone Blaster. It can hold up to 18 darts, and the gun can be pointed independently of the direction of the tracked base. The N-Strike can transmit a live feed from an onboard camera, and battles can be recorded on an SD card.

  • Handibot Smart Power Tool

    photo of Handibot Smart Power ToolPhoto: Handibot

    Take your workshop to the next level with this Wi-Fi-controlled CNC machine. The $2,865 Handibot Smart Power Tool v2.0 Adventure Edition can cut or mill objects with an operating volume of 152 by 203 by 76 millimeters. (It can also double as an X-Y plotter with a pen attachment.) The Handibot can accommodate larger surfaces if you use the built-in handles to lift and reposition it. A vacuum cleaner can be attached to the enclosing hood to suck up sawdust as it’s generated. Files from popular computer-aided-design programs are supported, including AutoCAD and SketchUp, and the Handibot control software is browser based.

  • PowerEgg

    photo of Handibot Smart Power ToolPhoto: PowerVision Robot

    There’s no shortage of drones on the market right now, but the $1,288 PowerEgg has a number of standout design features. The most immediately visible are the rotors and supports that fold up into the drone’s body, making it a lot less likely that a propeller or spar will get bent or broken during transport. The drone can be controlled using gestures with a one-hand remote, and it’s equipped with a 4K-resolution camera on a three-axis stabilized gimbal. In addition, there are several automated flight modes for things like taking aerial selfies.

  • Ozobot

    photo of Ozobot EvoPhoto: Ozobot

    Despite not having much in the way of fur, big eyes, or any kind of facial expression, the $99 Ozobot Evo is pretty adorable. It can navigate and play simple games with a human autonomously, it can be controlled directly via an app, and in a clever variant on the basic line-following robot, it can be programmed by using color codes (for example, a blue- red-blue sequence along a line will tell the robot to make a U-turn). Children can take full programmatic control via an iPad-based graphical code editor.

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