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Techonomy’s Fourth Annual Holiday Gift Guide

Amazon's Echo is one of the hottest tech gifts this year. It's a truly new category of device.

Amazon’s Echo is one of the hottest tech gifts this year. It’s a truly new category of device.

With Black Friday lasting a full month this year, you may already be feeling some holiday-shopping fatigue. We’re here to help! Following our tradition, we searched high and low for Techonomic gifts to suit just about everyone on your list. Here’s what we’ll be shopping for this season.

A Better Home

Amazon’s Echo ($180) pioneered a whole new category of tech device this year—call it the living room smart assistant. If you talk to Siri on your iPhone or say “OK Google” to your Android device, you are already familiar with how Echo works when you address it by saying “Alexa” followed by a question or instruction. You can use it to check the time, weather, or headlines, or to play Amazon Prime music. A great gift for that person on your list who’s constantly rummaging for his phone to have Wikipedia settle a debate.

We love Lumio Book Lamp ($190), which is not a travel light for your Kindle but rather a lamp that looks like an open book. It closes down to the size of a journal, and opens to look like a fanned-out book with 500 lumens of LED-powered light. Made of Tyvek with a leather strap to hang the lamp as well as high-strength magnets for mounting to a metal surface. While this would look good in any home, we think it would be great for making a hotel room feel bright and homey.

Why listen to music from a regular speaker when you could have one that hovers in midair? The Levitating Bluetooth Speaker ($100) floats as it pumps out your tunes, thanks to magnetic forces. Your giftee can connect it to a phone, tablet, or other Bluetooth-powered music player for up to five hours of oddly-levitating entertainment between charges.

For those practical people on your list, this one is also an ideal fit for city dwellers with limited kitchen space. The Totem Intelligent Waste System ($250) takes up no more space than a regular rubbish bin, but has several compartments to separate recyclables, food garbage, and regular trash, as well as storage for things like garbage bags. A built-in filter minimizes odors. Made of stainless steel and operated with touch buttons, this thing brings trash cans into the 21st century.

The Active Life

We swore this would be the year we’d leave activity trackers off the list, but the innovations just keep coming. This holiday season, win over those wristband holdouts with jewelry-style wearables. The Ōura ring ($280) gathers data on sleep patterns and how active (or sedentary) you are, and reports trends over time with personalized recommendations for how to improve your sleep and other behaviors. Similarly, the Misfit team has designed new versions of its Shine activity and sleep tracker that can be worn as necklaces (the Bloom, on sale for $110) or even Swarovski crystal-studded bracelets ($170).

For your favorite on-the-go giftee, look no further than the Hydro Flask (prices vary, starting around $20). Though it looks like any other travel mug, the Hydro Flask uses what we can only assume is dark magic to keep beverages hot or cold for as long as a full day. Bonus points: the company gives a portion of each purchase to charity.

Experiences

Techonomy readers are all about the thrill of learning, so consider giving friends and family a membership to their local science museum. (You can also pay for day passes, of course, but a membership for two or more people is more cost-effective and gives a whole year of enjoyment.) Some of our favorites are the Museum of Science in Boston and the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City.

If museums are a little stodgy for your giftee, we also recommend giving tickets to an event from the Moth, a live story-telling extravaganza that now operates in dozens of cities in the U.S. and abroad. Events usually have a theme, so you can choose one that will resonate for each person.

For Kids (and Kids at Heart)

For the budding scientist on your list, we can’t resist one of these great kits (though, to be fair, some parents may wish we had when they’re cleaning up the mess). The Makey Makey invention kit ($50) lets kids design, engineer, and invent like pros. Kids can use the kit to make musical instruments, game controllers, touch pads, and more, all using ordinary stuff you have around the house. The Edible Chemistry Kit ($16) guides users through a number of food-based experiments, letting them make foaming jelly that changes colors, fizzy drinks out of cabbage, and more.

Then there’s Dino Pet ($60), a swarm of bioluminescent plankton in the shape of a brontosaurus. The plankton get their fill of light during the day, and at night the dinosaur glows. The pet can be bought with a storybook ($10) for an added dimension of fun.

And for those kids-at-heart who grew up wanting to be a secret agent, or people who are snoopy but shy, check out the Smartphone Spy Lens ($20). It attaches to the camera of an iPhone, iPad, or Android device so users can take photos at a 90-degree angle. Their quarry will never suspect a thing.

The Techonomy team wishes you easy shopping and happy holidays! If you get truly stymied this season, just remember: you can’t go wrong with a soft, cozy blanket.

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