Are you looking for gift inspiration for the notoriously-hard-to-buy-for brother, father, boyfriend or husband in your life? Or perhaps you are that man, just looking around for something new and original.
Our gadget guys have scoured the market, and here, in no particular order, are the high-tech must haves for this festive season...
1. Signature style
Your signature may reveal your character, and perhaps even your name... but there's no doubt that it will be absolutely unique. The Signing Machine by Jaquet Droz is an automaton that signs stuff – Christmas cards, invitations, compliments slips, whatever – for you. It reproduces your swirls, dots and flourishes with a hinged arm holding a pen powered by a mechanical movement programmed by means of a set of hand-made cams. It is manually wound and has a 4-digit security lock. Jaquet Droz makes luxury watches, and almost three centuries ago the brand's founder Pierre Jaquet-Droz became famous for his automatons. The Signing Machine brings that tradition into the present, in a sleek unit about the same size as a smartphone. Price on request, www.jaquet-droz.com
2. The golfer’s ultimate accessory
The Reconvilier Hercules Golf Master looks like a normal automatic watch, 44 mm in diameter, but it hides a transformation: the watch case can be detached from the outer bezel and strap, and you can rotate the case to reveal a GPS range finder applicable to all golf courses in the world.
It achieves this by means of another unit, the base station, a GPS receiver that measures your position and compares it with the information that it stores regarding the golf course. Distance readings can be displayed in yards or metres, to the front edge of the green, or the hole. The watch has an automatic ETA Calibre 2892/A2 movement, and 50 metres water resistance. Price about €6,060 ($7,500). Further information from www.reconvilier.com/
3. A real yellow submarine
If you’d like to explore the underwater world without having to put on a wet suit, you can head into the depths with the Triton 1000/3 LP, the world’s lightest 3-passenger production submersible.
It will take you to a depth of 300 metres at 3 knots in complete comfort and safety, and at just 3.2 metres in length and 1.7 metres in height, it can be fitted into the tender garage of your yacht. With an endurance of ten hours and an additional 96 hours of oxygen in case of emergency it costs about €2.5 million ($3.15 million). See more at tritonsubs.com
4. Move up in the world
Inspire 1 by DJI is the world’d first drone with a 4K camera, providing professional-quality footage in a UAV that provides stability even in strong wind conditions. The sleek, aerodynamic body transforms during flight, the four rotor arms lifting up to improve stability and give the camera an unobstructed 360° view of the scene below. The 94° wide-angle lens eliminates distortion, and the state-of-the-art camera ensures crystal-clear colours. It is detachable, so that you replace it with upgrades as they become available.
A smartphone app allows you to preview what you are filming while you are flying; alternatively you can view what is being shot on a screen attached to the remote controller. For greater precision, you can use two remotes, with one person piloting the Inspire 1, and the other aiming the camera.
One of the innovative features of Inspire 1 is its sonic wave technology that makes safe, stable flying possible indoors, where GPS is not available. The 6-cell battery gives it 18 minutes in the air, while its video broadcast range is 1.7 km. Even though it’s relatively easy to fly, if it’s a gift for someone who hasn’t used a drone before, it would be a good idea to give it together with a trainer drone, typically costing about €80, which makes any beginner’s crashes cheaper. The DJI Inspire 1 costs about €2,630 ($3,299), available from www.dji.com.
5. Smart jewellery
Often, technology doesn’t rhyme with style or sophistication. Just think Google Glass and its recent "Glasshole" backlash. Ringly is an example of a slighlty more subtle integration: it’s a ring that links to your smartphone and notifies you when you receive a message or phone call that you think is important. The gemstone lights up and the ring vibrates when the communication arrives, so you can decide whether to put down the champagne for an moment, move aside, and take your phone out of your bag.
There are different light and vibration patterns, so you can customize the notifications according to person. It can also notify you for important events: your car is here. The ring is available in black onyx, pink sapphire, rainbow moonstone, emerald and tourmalated quartz. Prices start from about €155 ($195). Order from ringly.com
6. Relive those heroic moments
The latest in the GoPro family, the GoPro Hero4 takes action videos to a new level, with format and resolution close to home cinema quality at 4K30 and high frame rate, 1080p120, and default screen resolution of 4000 x 3000.
Audio performance has been enhanced, with a best-in-class audio algorithm for smooth, natural sound. It can take still images at 12 MP; other features include burst (capturing up to 30 photos per second, great for analyzing your golf swing), time lapse (intervals varying from 0.5 seconds to 60 seconds), and night lapse (photos at intervals from 15 seconds to 60 minutes).
It is waterproof to 40 metres, and it has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.The maximum recording time with 4K video at 30 fps is one hour and five minutes: this can be increased to two hours using a Battery BacPac (extra accessory) and keeping Wi-Fi turned off. It records onto a microSIM memory card with up to 64 GB capacity. Hero4 Black costs about €398 ($499.99). Purchase online at gopro.com/
7. iPad, uWrite
The iPad has been around for a while now and it’s become a part of everyday life. But people who liking writing more than just a few words or a URL will love the Touchfire keyboard, a transparent membrane with 3-dimensional keys that go over the iPad screen.
The cover and the keys are completely transparent, so you see what’s displayed on the screen, but you feel the keys under your fingers, and there is the right amount of resistance for touch-typing. There are other iPad keyboards out there, but most have to be charged, and work by Bluetooth connection and so can’t be used when the iPad is in airplane mode.
It also retracts and folds when you want to see the whole screen unobstructed. Price about €56 ($69.99), order online from touchfire.com/
8. Prints charming
3D printers are very much the technology of the moment with the recent news that in the not-too-distant future they could be used to create 3D organs for transplant into real human patients, not to mention their use to print homes to help solve the housing problems in third-world countries.
If you want to try one of these printers for yourself then the Cube 3D printer is a great option. It can be used to print interesting objects, in a whole combination of colours, from libraries accessible from a Cubify app: you can print direct from your smartphone.
If you’re wondering what you could print with this device, some ideas could be personalized smartphone cases, bracelets, kid’s toys… with a bit of work you could even print a spare set of dentures! If you want to design your own objects, you can use programmes available from the manufacturer, Cubify Invent and Cubify Sculpt.
Cube 3 is certified safe for domestic use, and costs €989. If you like it, you can move up to the CubePro (€2,399), faster, bigger, and prints in nylon as well as the ABS and PLA plastics used by Cube 3. More at http://cubify.com/en/Cube. Below, examples of products printed with the Cube 3D printer.
9. Cruise electric
The Quadrofoil Q2S Electric Limited Edition is an electric hydrofoil that enables you to cruise the coastline in style without any qualms about pollution. The futuristic hull in fiberglass lifts out of the water as it accelerates and propels you at about 40 km/h, with a range of 100 km with fully-charged batteries. It has two faux-leather seats, a steering wheel with brakes and a touchscreen display.
Unfortunately you won’t get it in time for Christmas: 100 boats will be ready for delivery by March 2015, and you can preorder one now from quadrofoil.com. About €22,333 ($28,000).
10. Roland Iten Calibre R822 Predator
It’s a complication. It is named the Calibre R822. Its movement consists of 167 components, crafted in white gold and titanium, with baguette and round-cut pavé diamonds., and finish at haute horlogerie levels It is made in a limited edition of three at the Roland Iten manufacture in Neuchatel, Switzerland. What is it? A watch is the first thing that comes to mind. But in actual fact, the Predator is a belt buckle. A super-high-tech belt buckle, whose functions include quick-changing for the leather strap, so that you can choose the strap that matches your clothes. When you are wearing the belt, you can loosen or tighten it with just one hand, and you can set two positions, such as sitting or driving (looser) or walking or sport (tighter). Its ten axles and sixteen trackwheels make operation smooth and fun to use. It is decorated with 387 diamonds totaling 14.15 carats. Find out more at www.rolanditen.com; if you miss out on one of the three Predator belt buckles, you can always go for another buckle model by Roland Iten.
11. Bonus product! Peace of mind
We all have stuff we’d like to keep our eyes on, whether they’re kids, horses in a stable, or your house or office when you’re not around. The DCS-5029L HD Pan & Tilt Day/Night Wi-Fi Network Cloud Camera makes it easy: you just place it where it’s needed, download an app, and you can check on what’s going on using your iPhone, iPad or smartphone wherever you are.
It can see up to 8 metres in total darkness with its built-in IR LEDs, and it has a 10x digital zoom for close-up viewing.
A microphone and speaker gives you the chance to talk to your horses from wherever you are, and they can answer back as well. It has a microSD card slot so that you can record video directly and view it later. Price about €136 ($169.99). Available from Amazon.
12. Another bonus product! Boosted electric skateboard
This could be the future of personal transportation. We all know about traffic jams: what's the point of having a supercar and being stuck in a queue? Rail and metro are faster, but there remains the problem of the last mile: from the last subway stop to your home or office or appointment. This is where the Boosted Electric Skateboard can provide a solution ideal for cool people with a good sense of balance. It looks like a longboard but it is powered by electric motors providing 2000 watts power, 9.6 km range with a full charge, a top speed of 35 km/h, and something that no other skateboards can give you: the possibility of climbing hills up to 25% grade. The powerful braking system is regenerative, so that when you brake, you charge the batteries. The products are still being developed and improved, with the help of an ex-Tesla engineer. Price about €1,200 ($1,499). Info and orders at boostedboards.com
13. Last bonus: Live your own science fiction movie
Voice activated technology is not exactly new, but Amazon's new Echo does display an interesting and unique approach in this field.
Instead of integrating voice activation into another technology, like Apple's Siri or Android searches, Amazon has created a separate device that focuses on optimising the function and performance of the core technology itself. This singular focus might allow them in the future to create a real game-changer in the highly competitive, yet-to-be cracked world of voice activated devices.
Conjuring up scenes from science fiction and fantasy films like Interstellar and Iron Man, Echo is an all-in-one, voice-activated, wireless assistant for the home.
It has large speakers and seven microphones that enable you to talk across a room to it. You name it with a wake word and then you can ask it the time, or questions, to play music, do sums, play the news and well pretty much anything (take a look in this video).
Most importantly Echo learns, adapting to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences. About €159 ($199), available by invitation only from Amazon: www.amazon.com/echo/