Holiday season is the time of year in which many people buy electronics - with a new crop of cool devices appearing annually. Besides the usual improved phones, tablets, and laptops, here are some innovative, cool items that you can give as gifts in 2017. This list is based on devices sent to me during the past year and one of which I recently became aware when contacted in response to an article.

Health improvement devices

Besides the devices that I have previously discussed for combating back pain and improving posture, and my picks last year for health and beauty, there are many other devices that have entered the market this year. There are, of course, numerous wearables that monitor the steps a person takes during the day, and his/her heartbeat. But some different offerings that warrant special mention include:

Go by Upright - Upright Go is a second generation posture-improvement wearable that "vibrates every time that you slouch." With smartphone-induced posture problems growing to epidemic levels, Go is likely a wise investment for many folks.

Hexa by Koolmask - About a month ago I wrote about how a tree-planting company created a fake product announcement about a super filter that one can wear to breathe easier in areas afflicted with pollution. Well... It turns out that while that there now really is such a product on the verge of entering the market, and it can be pre-ordered as a gift this year for delivery next year. Koolmask is running a Kickstarter campaign for its Hexa smart air filter mask, and being that the firm has already raised over 150% of its goal with 15 days to go I would expect the pre-orders to be successfully filled. If you or a loved one live or travel to areas with bad air quality (which likely includes many, if not most, readers of this article) - check it out. As this product can also help with breathing while exercising or commuting, I look forward to seeing this product when it becomes commercially available.

LightStim for Wrinkles - LightStim for Wrinkles is a LED light device that treats skin to remove wrinkles. I mentioned last year how laser treatments once available only at dermatologists' offices were now possible at home; the LED light from LightStim is believed to offer similar benefits (according to the manufacturer it "penetrates the epidermis layer of the skin, stimulating your skin's natural ability to produce collagen and elastin. This increased volume of collagen and elastin plumps up the dermis layer, gradually pushing out lines and wrinkles."). One big advantage over lasers is that it does not cause pain when used as do lasers. In addition to its skin treating light, Lightstim also makes other LED devices including one that is supposed to help clear acne pimples, and another that is supposed to help reduce pain. 

Snuza Pico - Snuza Pico is a wearable for babies. Yes, babies. It clips on to a diaper and monitors an infant's breathing, position, and temperature. It can alert parents if a baby falls, stops breathing, or develops a fever. I plan to discuss more technology products for babies in a separate article in 2018.

Headphones

Who doesn't love a great new pair of high-quality headphones ? This year we saw advances not only in sound, but in functionality and form factor.

Wireless earbuds - Apple, of course, made ear buds ubiquitous, but there are third parties producing great products for both iPhones and Android devices - and they are often less expensive than Apple's offering. I tried a pair of Amps Air earbuds from Sol Republic - which delivered great sound for its price point, and its charging case doubles as a backup battery for smartphones.

Noise cancelling headsets - Headsets that actively cancel out background noise so that people in noisy environments can listen to music or a recording without turning up the volume to hearing-damaging loudness levels have proliferated this past year. My favorite is still the wired Bose QuietComfort 25 - and Bose makes a wireless version now as well. Plenty of less expensive noise cancelling  headsets are on the market as well; headsets like those from Cowin definitely help in noisy environments, but, as would be expected, at least in my experience, the less expensive headsets' cancellation capabilities do not match those of the much more expensive Bose.

Smart headphones - Smart headphones of various types have hit the market in time for this year's holiday season. Lite by Vinci, for example, comes with built in streaming services and offers voice controlled music playback as well as intelligent music recommendations based on your listening habits and movement. One minor, yet cool, feature - when one takes off the headset the system automatically pauses music until the headset is put back on. OV by On Vocal offers the capabilities of Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant, and Apple's Siri in a headset - transforming your headset into your mobile assistant. It also sports several advanced features such as allowing you to adjust how much of background sound you hear versus playback volume, and auto-adjusting those settings if you begin to speak with someone.

Wireless charging pads

As more and more phones incorporate wireless charging technology - and as the technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous in Starbucks stores around the country - wireless charging pads are becoming increasingly popular at home and at work. I have  one from Samsung on my desk. Of course, other vendors now offer them in several form factors; Bezalel has some sleek (and, importantly, thin) offerings in this area including a magnetic phone holder for cars that also wireless charges devices.

Measurement Technologies

While laser-based distance measuring equipment is not the newest technology on the market, most people still do not own devices that offer this capability. I tried out one by Tacklife; once you measure using a laser it is hard to go back to old fashioned measuring tapes. InstruMMents takes measuring even further - its new 01 Dimensioning Instrument lets you measure the dimensions of objects of all sorts, even measuring and reproducing the angles of curves.

Drones

One of the exciting developments in drones this past year has been the arrival of affordable VR drones, where you can fly the drone as if you were sitting in the pilot's seat. This not only makes the experience more "real," but also enables drone racing and other drone sports. Such capabilities used to be extremely expensive - but this holiday season that has changed. Today, for example, Bolt's new carbon-fiber framed drone, which offers both recreational flying and first-person VR flying, sells for under $200. I will likely do a full piece on drones sometime in 2018.

Toys

I will be doing a separate piece on cool, new technology-based toys within the next couple weeks. Stay tuned!

Happy Holiday Shopping!

Published on: Dec 4, 2017
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.