What do you give the automation nerd who has everything? Another goofy sweater? A new pocket protector?
Now, you no longer need to be the last one at the mall on Christmas eve. Just take our list, go online, and find the perfect Christmas gift for your favorite automation fan.
1) LEGO Mindstorms kits
We're really fond of LEGO in general. Their toys encourage creativity and discovery, no matter whether you're a child or an adult. Their MINDSTORMS sets, in particular, feel like they were created with automation nerds in mind. Not only do they use the same modular design approach and re-usable elements that we love, they also rely on more advanced pieces—including sensors and motors—and are fully programmable. Robotic arms, card shufflers, pinball machines, and hundreds of other inventive projects have shown just how powerful LEGO MINDSTORMS are. If you're looking to flex your creative muscles, there are no better toys.
2) HTC Vive headset
Virtual Reality headsets are becoming hugely popular, and we wouldn't be surprised if they were ubiquitous a few years from now. Although the video game industry kick-started the movement, other fields are now jumping on it—and for good reasons. Medicine and healthcare have realized the power of VR, and architects, engineers, and designers are starting to see its potential too. Being able to visualize models, designs, and blueprints in VR can not only be beneficial for problem-solving, but can also be an incredible tool to allow a client to experience your design or product in an entirely different way.
3) Smart Mirror
Automation geeks tend to love DIY projects, and this might be one of the coolest: an augmented reality mirror. Now, this is technically "just" a semi-transparent mirror, which you'll need to combine with a display and a Raspberry Pi (or Android device of your choice). Once that's done, you can have an AR mirror that displays any information you like: the weather, breaking news, text mails and messages, calendars, reminders, and more. Place a webcam on top, and you could also Skype your colleagues or clients!
4) Glowforge 3D Printer
Speaking of DYI projects, why not print them yourself? Forget ordering that fancy designer lamp off the internet. Now you can create it all yourself and print it at home. Granted, 3D printers are still expensive, and this one is no exception. But it is pretty much the dream gift for those of us fascinated by automation because it allows us to not only create, but to actually physically handle and test whatever project we've set our minds to any time we want. It's hard to put a price on that.
5) RIF6 Cube Pico video Projector
There's nothing quite like the annoyance of having to deal with adapters and incompatible plugs right before a presentation. Unless it’s a projector that doesn't work right, or a hundred other small things that get in the way of showing your work. Enter RIF6's Cube, which solves all that in one fell swoop: a tiny portable projector (with speakers!) that works on pretty much any screen, or wall, or the ceiling.
6) Apple Watch
Plenty of articles have been written about the Apple Watch and its various features, so we won't wax poetic about its usefulness. Needless to say, if the automation geek in your life is particularly busy, the Apple Watch—or a good Android smart watch, should they prefer that ecosystem—can be an invaluable tool when it comes to staying on top of your workload and being as productive as possible.
7) OWI Robotic arm
Who doesn't want a miniature automation device…right on their desk? That's essentially what this robotic arm is. Although it's not really capable of mass producing anything, it's incredibly cool to build and use. It's also fully programmable thanks to its interface kit. You can automate certain processes and let it make your life (slightly) easier—or at least, more fun. And before you ask: yes, it can definitely stir your coffee.
8) Dyson 360 Eye robot Vacuum
The ultimate robo-vac from the smart people at Dyson. If you're still manually vacuuming in 2017, now would be an excellent time to think about automating the process. Cleaning robots have come a long way since they first made waves roughly a decade ago, and the Dyson 360 Eye is a stunning example of their modern iteration. Quiet, powerful, reliable, learns the layout of the rooms it cleans, and it can run on schedule so you never have to worry about cleaning your floor ever again.
It was only a matter of time until someone finally solved one of modern life's minor-yet-frustrating problems: misplacing our keys, wallet, or phone. Meet Tile and their series of small, square, smart tracking devices—conveniently called "tiles". Slip one of those in your wallet, or hook one up to your keychain, and you'll easily be able to locate your items with the push of a button. If you have access to your phone, you can use the app. If not, lost tiles can be located within a 100-foot Bluetooth range by using another tile.
10) Philips Hue
The automated home is no longer a thing of the future. All the big guys are getting involved (just think of Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings), and there are plenty of start-ups also vying for your dollars. When it comes to automated lighting, we think Philips Hue is the one to beat. They are compatible with all the major ecosystems, work with tons of apps, and let you automate your home’s lighting to match your lifestyle flexibly and elegantly. Now that’s a bright idea.