Look no further than across your own kitchen table to gaze upon the glorious era of future tech we have wrought—there, illuminated only by the glow of a personal smart device, will you find the eyes of your partner, children, and grandparents, individually fixated on an animated photo of a cat tripping a baby or a sloth seated upright at a classroom desk.
Instead of shoveling yet another insular, single-person lump of tech into every individual’s stocking this year, why don’t we focus on what really matters: lumps of tech that the whole family can enjoy together?
For the Means-well Misplacer
Keys, wallets, pets?—even if you’ve got a good system in place for where you left them, they’re not always there when you come back. It’s hard to solve the problem of why exactly things disappear, but Tile trackers do a pretty good job of helping you make them reappear. Pair each Tile—about the size of a piece of chocolate—with your phone, then hook them to whatever you want to keep tabs on. As long as they’re within 100 feet of you, you can ring the trackers using your phone. If they’re further away, the map will show the last place you had it. If it’s way out there, other Tile users will automatically update your item location just by passing near it. And if you lost your phone? Just double tap one of the Tiles, and the phone will ring, even if you left it on silent. Not too shabby.
For the Reminiscing Retro-gamer
If your household contained both a child and a television set between the years of 1985 and 1990, odds are good that you had a Nintendo hooked up to it at some point. Video games have gotten a lot more complex since then, so Nintendo has taken it upon themselves to return to their roots and release the NES Classic Edition, a miniaturized 21st century update of that familiar grey box. It has 30 original games from the late 1980s built in, comes with a controller, and hooks up with HDMI right to a brand new TV with no hassle. You don’t even need to flip it to channel 3.
$59.99, various retailers
For the Inquisitive Interrogator
Picture it: in the throes of post-Christmas and pre-New Year laziness, you’re feeling so sapped of motivation that merely picking up your phone to call in a dinner delivery seems like a bridge too far. Enter the nearly magical always-listening Amazon Echo, a do-it-all doo-dad about the size of a Pringles can that serves as your personal voice assistant, shopper, and smart device hub. You can ask it what’s on your calendar, implore it to set a timer for you, have it fetch and read recipes out loud, or get it to play podcasts or tunes over its beefy built-in speaker. And yes, it’ll even order you a pizza.
For the Diligent Documenter
Everyone’s carrying around a camera now, but when you can fire off a dozen pictures in a second or two, it feels like you lose a little something, doesn’t it? Usher back in the days of yesteryear with the acutely novel Fujifilm INSTAX mini 8 instant camera, a cute and compact camera which does things the old fashioned way—stamping your photos instantaneously onto quick developing film that pops right out of the camera after you grab your shot. In a uniquely digital world that’s mostly set film by the wayside, there’s still something novel about snapping some physical photos with the fam.
$55, various retailers
By Brandon Daiker
Photo of INSTAX mini 8 by Kārlis Dambrāns, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0. NES Classic Edition is a trademark of Nintendo. Amazon Echo images appear via Amazon.com. Tile Mate and Tile Slim images courtesy of Tile.